21 month old flaps arms when excited?? — The Bump
Toddlers: 12 - 24 Months

21 month old flaps arms when excited??

Hi all- I am new to this discussion board but was looking for some advice. My toddler boy is 21 months old.  I have noticed over the past few months, when he is really excited about something, he jumps up and down and flaps his arms. For example, if I'm about to give him his favorite snack, if we are about to go in the car, if he sees a TV show or hears a song that he likes, etc.  He never does it unless he is really happy about something.  He is a late talker too. He knows a handful of words/animal sounds and doesn't say them very often. He babbles a lot and is great at pointing, bringing objects/toys. He plays with other kids and seems very interactive, makes eye contact etc. When I tell him we are about to do something (ie, take a bath, take a nap) he understands.  He can follow complex commands (ie, gets something out of the appropriate drawer, etc).  I am worried b/c I have read that arm flapping can be a sign of autism.  Does anyone else have a toddler that does this? Should I be concerned about this combined with the slow speech?

Re: 21 month old flaps arms when excited??

  • You should be asking the Pedi about the delayed speech. He should be saying quite a few words by 21 months. At least 10 words. I'd also ask about the arm flailing because your Pedi would be the very best person to evaluate and give an opinion.
  • The arm flapping that is a sign of autism is called stimming. It is not the same as getting excited and flapping your arms. It is more of a self soothing thing. When some people with autism get overstimulated, they flap their hands, rock back and forth, or some other similar repetitive motion. They may also flap their hands in front of their own face and watch the movements over and over.
    It doesn't sound to me like your son is stimming. My daughter flaps her arms sometimes when she's super excited, especially while running to what she is excited about.
    If you are truly concerned, I would recommend talking to your pediatrician. My pediatrician actually had achecklist that he had me go through at daughter's 18month checkup, and he said that there will be another one at her 2year checkup in order to check for signs of autism.
    Autism is a spectrum, and every child with autism is different. At the same time, I believe that most or all children with autism have trouble with social interaction. I think that there is a community for parents of children with special needs on here, you might try asking them.
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  • Thanks all- I mentioned the speech at his 18 month visit and the Dr was not concerned. I would say he knows about 10 words, some animal sounds can sign a few things, but only says his words sometimes and they're hard to understand. He is really good at nonverbal communication/getting what he wants and we have become good at reading his cues, so now we are trying to hold back to get him to use his words more. He understands a lot, including complex commands that he easily follows. My husband was a very slow talker so we felt this played a role too. 

    I never mentioned the arm flap b/c I thought it was normal. He really only does it when hes in a very happy/excited state and it seemed natural to me even though I haven't seen other kids do it.  
  • I'd have early intervention evaluate him. It's free usually.
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