Does my child have ADHD, a speech delay or autism? Classic Rebroadcast

We are taking a look back at Episode 32 on our Classic Rebroadcast series. Nearly 4 years later and I am still often getting questions on how to know if it’s ADHD, a speech delay, or autism? 

Autism Signs in Babies

I cover the three steps from my free guide: Is it Autism, ADHD, “Just” a Speech Delay, or Typical Toddler Tantrums? Whether it’s autism or not isn’t as important as being an engaged caregiver who knows and understands the developmental needs of their child. 

Step 1: Know Developmental Milestones

It is your job as the parent or caregiver to know and track the development of your child. Become familiar with the milestones your child should be meeting by what age. Are they on track? How far off track are they? Are there other medical or environmental obstacles at play?

Step 2: Seek Evaluations, Assessments, and Screenings

Contact your pediatrician, and make a sick visit. You don’t have to wait until your next well visit to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. Especially when there usually isn’t a visit between the ages of 2 and 3. You can also contact early intervention, Birth – 3 if you’re US based. Receiving standardized assessments will help you when getting an appointment with a developmental pediatrician for an autism screening.

Step 3: Learn about ABA

ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis and whether your child receives a diagnosis of autism or not, ABA can be extremely helpful in turning any behavioral or developmental concerns around. ABA is not only for kids with autism,  it is a science that can help any kid or adult. 

Autism Denial

I also touch on autism denial, as I am very open with my own denial when my husband suspected autism from my son Lucas. Autism denial is very common, especially in two-parent households where one is ready to get to work and the other just kind of shuts down. You have to pull yourself out of it if you are experiencing this denial. Seek support in my online courses and communities and don’t waste any time helping your child.

After listening to this episode whether it’s your first time hearing it or you heard it when it first aired in 2019, check back next week for our top 5 questions related to this really important topic.

Does my child have ADHD, a speech delay, or autism? Classic Rebroadcast


  • What steps can you take when you’re seeing signs of autism?
  • How do you know if your child has autism, ADHD, or speech delay?
  • Is it autism or toddler tantrums?
  • Three steps for understanding your child’s development.
  • Can ABA work if your child doesn’t have autism?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism? SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA'S FREE TRAINING


Mary Barbera – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 206

Does my child have ADHD, a speech delay, or autism? Classic Rebroadcast

Hosted by: Mary Barbera

Mary: You're listening to the autism around podcast episode number 206. Today we are rebroadcasting a classic podcast solo show entitled Is It ADHD, Speech, Delay or Autism? It was previously recorded and aired back in 2019 when we first started the Turn Autism Around podcast. So we are bringing it back with just a few edits, and I think it's really great information. Even though it was recorded almost four years ago. We are also going to have an episode next week where we talk about the top five questions we get about, is it autism or something else? So I think if you listen to this podcast and next week's podcast, episode 207, it will really bring you up to speed on my views in 2022 and 23 about the topic that is very important to young children with early signs of developmental delays, autism speech like and ADHD. Let's get to it.

Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed, and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Is it Autism, ADHD, Speech Delay, or Toddler Tantrums?

Mary: I started this podcast in January of 2019 after really considering starting a podcast for years before that. I am a big podcast listener. I learn and continue to learn every day about how to get my message out more clearly. A lot about online marketing by listening to podcasts. But I decided to bite the bullet and start a podcast in January. So I do know there's a lot of confusion and I myself am going to talk about how confused I was and how much in denial I was when my first born son, Lucas, started showing signs of autism when he was not even two. He wasn't diagnosed until the day before. He's three, and I'm going to get into that now a little bit, but I do think there's still a lot of confusion. It is very difficult for parents to keep track of development. Kids have good days and bad days. They get sick. There's so many variables that you don't know if it's just a phase or if it's just a speech delay or if it's just, you know, there's no such thing as Joe Normal. And so there's a range of what is acceptable. And then you add the well, my child was a preemie. And so then that gets confusing. My child is a twin. My child's older sister talks for him and just all those things that just add to the confusion. So I do want to let you know that I have other podcasts that cover similar topics like early detection and early diagnosis and some interviews with moms. I would say if this is your very first episode you're listening to, then I would really go back to /2 /3. To listen to the first three podcasts because number one episode was My Journey and the 15 lessons I learned for both parents and professionals along the way. I've been in the autism world for two decades and I believe that I really can benefit from my story. Episode number two is all about early detection and early treatment. So there's going to be some overlapping stories, potentially some overlapping content. And then episode number three is with Kelsey, who is a single mom of two living in Canada. She is our community manager of our online courses and communities. And Kelsey now has gone from overwhelmed single mom of two kids on the spectrum to a real champion. She's a therapist to other kids. She's managing and navigating the system for her two boys. And she is now also managing our online community. So hers is a great interview and I might touch on some of her stories because a lot of parents in my toddler preschooler course have walked the walk of being confused. Being in denial and waiting in insane lines for evaluations for treatment. And part of my podcast is really to teach parents and professionals, really. I'm teaching professionals how to teach parents to get the parent out of denial, out of line, realizing that early autism is an emergency and we've got to deal with it. So many of you may not know that. In addition to weekly podcasts, I also have a weekly video blog that I've been doing since January of 2017, also called Turn Autism Around, and I provide weekly video blogs on a variety of topics. And my most popular, we have over 20,000 subscribers there. So if you haven't checked out my YouTube channel, you should go to can also go to /Facebook and /Twitter to get on my groups and my pages. So to get more information. But if you go to my YouTube channel, you will find that the most popular video blog is called Is It Autism or Just a Speech Delay? And it's our most popular video blog so far. We have over a quarter of a million views on that. So it's very popular. We also have other video blogs. One is, is it autism or ADHD? And I did do a video also called What to Do When Your Child is held back or Kicked Out of Daycare or Preschool. So, you know, this is what parents are facing. They're facing. Your child has a speech delay. Your child can't progress up to daycare room B because he's not potty trained or we can't have him at this preschool anymore because he has bitten other kids more than once. So parents are feeling stressed and then they're being told, okay, it might be autism, maybe it's ADHD, maybe it's oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar. I mean, all these potential diagnoses when a child exhibits major problem behavior or is developmentally delayed. So they're not drinking out of an opening like they're same age peers. They're not sharing. They're not participating in circle time. They're not talking. And the other issue is maybe your child is actually a baby. Maybe you're worried about a baby because you have an older child or the family has an older child with autism. So you're watching the baby like a hawk and you're wondering, are there ways to engage the baby that might help just their general engagement level might help get them talking quicker, get them not tantruming. And yes, the rate of autism for siblings, if you already have one child with autism, the rate of having a second child is almost 20%. It's 19% from the study that I know of done several years ago. And so that's one in five odds that your child's going to have autism. The second child. I did a podcast episode with a former client's mom, Jen, and she talked about what she went on to have while she had a baby. She was pregnant when she found out Cody had autism. And then she went and had another baby. And both her girls do not have autism. But in addition to having one in five chances of having autism, they also have a higher rate of having a speech delay or ADHD or some other issues. So it's good not to stick your head in the sand if you have another child or maybe you have a nephew with autism and you're worried about your baby. So my thought is to watch any baby or toddler closely and there is a lot you can do to start turning things around on your own without a diagnosis, without a full team of professionals. I developed a guide called Is It Autism, ADHD or typical toddler tantrums? Three steps you can take today instead of worrying. And the three steps. And actually my toddler preschooler course can help you regardless if your child never gets a diagnosis of autism. If your child is just a little bit behind, if you're worried about a sibling and you want to put techniques in place when they're one and two, that will really give them the best odds of talking and not tantrum making and all these things. So in a lot of ways, you can't afford to stand in line and be in the queue waiting for an evaluation. A lot of times you do need to take action and I have found my resources really can help people. So if you are a parent or grandparent or a concerned neighbor or friend or whoever is professional. Anyone can download my free guide at and I'm going to talk about the three steps you can take today instead of worrying when you're not sure if it's autism.

Step 1: Know Developmental Milestones

Mary: So the first step, which is in the guide, which I would recommend, I would recommend even if your baby is four months old and you don't know anybody with autism, which I find that hard to believe because it seems these days everyone knows someone with autism. But I didn't know back two decades ago that it was my job to keep track of my child's development. But step number one is go on, find your developmental milestones at every age, four months of age, eight months, 12 months, 18 months. When should your child be able to drink out of an open cup? When should they be pointing? When should they be touching body parts? When should they be talking? When should they be sharing? When should they be doing pretend play? Although not just talking and social behavior, but also motor wise, when should they be rolling over, standing up all those things? Not to make you paranoid, but I would just keep a close eye and there is a range of normal. So say your child is a preemie and they're 18 months old, but they were premature by three months. Okay. So they may be, you know, at a 15 month old level, and I may be not concerned about that because they were three months premature. And now they're, you know, they're 18 months chronological age, but they're pretty, the child is pretty much on track for a 15 month old level. That's probably fine. I mean, I'm not saying it's always completely fine. But just in general, you know, there's a range of normal. However, if the child, the 18 months old, was three months premature, but not doing some of the things that a 12 month old should do, 12 month old you do. Then you've got a bigger discrepancy and probably more reason to warrant early intervention professionals coming in, meeting with your child's pediatrician, maybe getting on a waitlist for developmental pediatrician evaluation. So learning more about the next two steps from the guide. So step number one is to know developmental milestones for each level. Then compare it to where your child's at. Remember, don't be paranoid if they have most of the 18 month old level or most of the 15 month old level. Okay, just keep an eye on things. But if they are falling, you know, six months, even consistently, three or four months behind, then it might warrant, especially if they've scattered skills, if they start to lose skills that they had, those are all red flags and the child should be evaluated for autism.

Step 2: Seek Evaluations and Assessments through your Pediatrician or Early Intervention

Mary: So this second step after you know your developmental milestones and compare it to your child's, the second step is to make an appointment with your child's pediatrician. You can make a sick appointment. Most people don't think of that. They only think of sick appointments like colds and earaches and stomach flus and those sorts of things. But a lot of times there is no well visit between the ages of two and three years of age. And a lot of times there's a lot of concerns about development. So you want to make sure you call your pediatrician, tell them you're concerned about your child's development. You'd like to bring them in for a checkup. Sometimes that can be an extended checkup. Sometimes when you call up for a developmental checklist, that can be a longer checkup than simply an ear check or sick visit for a cold. And you can also self-refer your child to the early intervention program. If you are in the United States, that would be fine. So you can call early intervention now. If you're not in the United States, I'm not sure how that would work. But if you are in the United States, you could just simply Google early intervention, birth to three and then your city and state and county and it would probably pop up who's in charge. If you really don't know and you can't find it online, you can always contact your school district and tell them you have a two year old or and if you have a 3 to 5 year old child, that's another agency. So it is really complicated. But early intervention should provide a free or low cost evaluation to see if what you're seeing is a big discrepancy between where this child should be. Okay. So that's the second step, is to get more evaluations, get standardized screenings, and those standardized screenings will actually help you when you're trying to get to make an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. The fact that we had early intervention, standard scores for Lucas showing that he was really delayed on standardized tests. So even though he was two and a half, for instance, when we had the developmental test, he was functioning at a nine month old level for expressive language, a 12 month old level for receptive language. And you might think, oh, gosh, that's depressing. I don't want to know that, but knowledge is power. And so we have to know where they're at so that we can take them to the next level.

Autism Denial

Mary: So let's talk a little bit about denial. I did a video blog on denial. And denial is a real thing. Usually in two parent homes, somebody is in more denial than the other. Someone is more pessimistic, optimistic. In my case, my husband, who's a physician, mentioned the possibility of autism when Lucas was just 21 months old. And I told him on that day I was shocked. I had no thought that Lucas was even delayed. I told him I never, ever wanted to hear the word autism again. He didn't bring it up for like another year. I stuck my head in the sand until it was really undeniable that Lucas there was something wrong. We got speech therapy, went to a typical preschool, but all the while my husband planted that seed and I was thinking more and more about autism. So there is no study to show that we can prevent autism, but there are studies to show that we can get kids to become indistinguishable. Some of my clients are now old enough. They're learning to drive and go to college and my whole Turn Autism Around podcast and the name of my YouTube channel, Turn Autism Around. It's like, what do you mean by turn autism around? Well, for very young kids who you don't know if it's speech delay or autism, for kids that are newly diagnosed, who are here listening, the parents are here listening, you know, there is a chance I don't know what percentage the chances I don't know if it's 4% or 47% because the studies really vary. But there is a chance that your child could become indistinguishable, could get all better, could avoid the diagnosis, could get, you know, totally pass the diagnosis. And then for other kids, they could end up. Still having, you know, pretty significant autism symptoms. But they could also be high enough, language wise and cognitively to drive and go to college and all those good things. And then even for kids like Lucas, my son, who has not recovered from autism, we have used an ABA approach his whole life since the age of three, and he is reaching his fullest potential and the bar has to keep going high. There's not a once and done. You reach your potential in your 20 or 25 and everything's fine. It's like I am continuing to advocate for him. I'm continuing to proceed. So turning autism around basically means that each child will reach his or her fullest potential.

Step 3: Learn About ABA

Mary: So the first step, if you're worried, if it's autism or something else, is to know your milestones, compare it to where your child's at. The second step is to contact your child's pediatrician, early intervention to get better screenings and to get potentially on a waitlist for developmental pediatricians. There's other physicians that can diagnose autism, even psychologist, school psychologists. But there is a medical diagnosis that is probably a little bit better by a developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist. Someone who is in the medical field should probably diagnose autism. They are able to then write medical scripts for ABA services. And the third step after you do those two steps is to learn about ABA, because it really doesn't matter if it's autism or speech delay or early signs of ADHD or ODD, OCD, we need to intervene. And I've shown with my free resources and definitely within my paid online course, toddler and preschooler course, that parents with kids with and without a diagnosis can learn step by step procedures to help them learn to talk, talk more tantrum less, start to point, start to answer questions for some potty trained sleep in their own bed, be less picky, wean from pacifiers and bottles, all the things that are really bogging parents down from helping their children. You know, the same techniques that parents might be using for their older child are not working for this child. So we take you from start to finish in terms of knowing what to do, but the basics of what to do. Our first to assess, be aware of where your child is at. If you're an early intervention professional's professional, trying to get parents to really look at where their child's at, where they're functioning, both good behaviors like language like we want, as well as pretend play or sharing or socializing, self-care, feeding themselves, drinking out of an open cup. All these things that I swear, even my online course for parents of toddlers and preschoolers with autism or with signs of autism, it would be great for parents of typically developing kids, grandparents, nannies. It is really just great step by step advice on how to increase the behaviors we want and decrease the behaviors that we don't want across all environments. So this is a pretty short podcast, but I did want to just give you the basics. I'm sure even if you have a teen with autism, you probably know plenty of people that ask you about autism or plenty of relatives and friends who are your concern and you don't know what to do to help that family either get out of denial or start to look at really how far behind they are. And back in the day when I was in denial, I really thought autism was a death sentence. And I thought if I said it might be autism, that the curtain would fall and my life would be ruined. I don't believe that anymore. I believe that we should stick our heads in the sand about anything. We need to identify delays as soon as they happen and really make as many gains as we can to get our children and our clients to their highest, fullest potential. So I hope you enjoyed these tips for the free guide. Is it autism, ADHD or typical toddler tantrums? You can go to if you want to take the next step and learn more about getting into my toddler or course you'll find out more information as you download that toddler guide. And if you have any questions, you can't find your way. You don't know what you need. You can always email us at [email protected]. I hope you found these strategies valuable. If you did, I would love it if you would leave me a rating and review wherever you're listening to this podcast. And I hope you tune in next week and I will talk to you then.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.