Flapping arms – head lag – no eye contact. Is it autism or developmental delay?

Understanding infant development to rule out either

You went to visit your friends, and your baby was acting in a way that you have never seen her before.

Now you are worried.

Your 7-month-old baby got excited and started jumping in your arms. Then she suddenly started flapping her little arms. It lasted nearly a minute, but it felt like an eternity for you.

What if your baby is autistic or has developmental delays?

Like most mothers do, you most likely have heard and read about autism.

There is even a chance that you know someone who has a child with autism.

So you kind-of-know what to look for.
But you are not certain.

Naturally, you worry.
Worry that any behavior, movement or lack of it can be a sign of autism or developmental delay.


Autism is a spectrum disorder.

On one end of the spectrum, there are children who behave almost like non-autistic children.

On the other end of the spectrum, some children are not able to learn even basic life skills.
And some can not control their behavior at all.

“Spectrum disorder” also means that not every child has the same symptoms/ signs/ delays/ challenges. Thus the diagnosis is given only to children who present with more than 1-2 signs.

So if your child is flapping their arms but has no other signs, he is most likely not autistic. 

Of course, there is a chance that you are not able to identify the other signs. That is why to be certain educate yourself as much as possible and seek professional help.

Knowing and understanding what the signs of autism and developmental delay is crucial for every mom.


This knowledge will empower you to assess and teach your baby.

It will also assist you to seek medical intervention when necessary and help your baby as soon as possible.

It will help you clarify that not all “weird” movements your baby does are a sign of autism. Some are naturally occurring milestone. And some are signs of developmental delay.

It will guide you to understand the naturally occurring infant movements, behaviors, milestones.

As a guide let’s use the signs and delays of autism.

The most common signs of Autism are:

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baby scooting drawing

It is as hard for him as it would be for you if I ask you to walk on a log 15 feet over a fast running stream

His rational mind is not mature yet to predict the future. His brain can not assist him to see beyond a certain point.
Without the rational mind, he does not see that the effort he has to put into learning a difficult task will pay him off later. He wants a cause and effect now.
If his actions do not give him satisfaction in the moment he will try something else.
So he chooses a very smart route.
He adapts.

right and left brain depiction

Even though adults have their rational mind developed well, adults don’t act that much different either

We all adapt differently. Some of us try walking with a different gait pattern. Some of us try locomotion with a wheelchair.
Some of us have bodies that can not move according to our will at all.

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Gross motor skills and your child's personality

infant in bear crawl drawing

What is personality?  “It is a set of individual differences that are affected by the development of an individual: values, attitudes, personal memories, social relationships, habits, and skills.”  This also including gross motor skills.

I wonder, how much each skill affects our children’s personality?

babies standing and sitting


My kids could not avoid their physical therapist mama teaching them rolling, sitting, crawling. They could have learned on their own but I wanted to give them a head start in locomotion. The results were very different. They both taught me many valuable if very different lessons.

My daughter, a very strong girl, (my perpetual mover) thrived so well with the extra training, her gross motor skills developed so fast, that she crawled at 5 and ½ months. However, my laid back, low muscle tone son would not even sit independently by 7 and ½ months but decided to show off a skill set of sitting, crawling and pull to stand all in one day. Clearly their genetically given muscular tone, balancing skills affected how and when they learned to sit and crawl.

Up to this day, my children’s gross motor skills are vastly different. They also have very different personalities, different interests in sports and almost every area.

Is our personality a collection of skills or does our personality directs the development of our skills?

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