Autism Signs and Symptoms
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in a child typically
appears as unusual development of behavior, social, and communication skills.
The severity of symptoms will vary depending
on where the child is on the autism spectrum. According to the Autism
Society, characteristic behaviors of autism can
appear in infancy, but usually become clearer during early childhood, defined
as the time between 24 months to 6 years of age.
Autism is a lifelong problem, but with early
intervention and the right ongoing therapy, those with the disorder can live
very fulfilling lives. If your child is showing any of these symptoms, it
doesn’t mean that they definitely have autism. Speak to a doctor about any of
Sociability will likely be a challenge from an
early age for a child with ASD. Infants who go on to develop autism often will
not respond to their name being called and will show less than normal interest
in watching and interacting with other humans. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they may seem
distant, as though they are not connecting with mom and dad. This is because
children with autism have a difficult time interpreting social cues such as
smiling or frowning, and it’s hard for them to understand what other are
feeling and thinking.
As they grow older children with an ASD might
not want to interact with other children. They may not show what is considered
“normal” play behavior with toys, imitation, or pretend play. Instead, they
will likely be preoccupied with a particular object or interest. The child will
show a significant need to stick to specific routines through the day. This can
cause serious challenges to participating in any social environment, such as
daycare or school.
Repetitive Motions and Obsessive Behaviors
According to Autism
Speaks, ASD children may exhibit repetitive motions
- flapping hands
- rocking their bodies
- turning in circles
are also common. For example, a child with ASD may take their toys and arrange
and rearrange them carefully instead of using them for “pretend” play. They may
become upset if the toy arrangement is disturbed.
may also come out in the form of intense preoccupation. A child with an ASD may
obsess over a normal physical object staring at it for hours on end. They may
also become obsessed with learning all about one small subject. For example,
learning everything there is to know about a favorite TV show, or becoming an
expert on the subtle rules of baseball.
Sensitivities and Emotional Regulation
According to the Mayo
Clinic, a child with ASD might also show sensitivity
to sights, sounds, smells, and things they touch or that touch them. Sometimes
there is a hypersensitivity to sound. The child may cover his ears and cry or
run away to avoid the sounds.
Although not universal, it’s common for
children (and adults) with autism to control their emotions. Faced with
unfamiliar situations or environments, they may cry or have other types of
emotional outbursts. They may even resort to self-injury like banging their
head or pulling their hair out in frustration.
Both verbal and other forms of communication
may be limited, lost, or entirely absent.
According to the CDC, a common early sign of communication issues is that a child
may not respond to their name. A child with an ASD may avoid eye contact. He or
she may not show affection to parents or others. The child may even fail to
acknowledge when affectionate behavior is shown towards him or her. This is
because children with ASDs have a hard time understanding social cues, and will
feel uncertainty about the intentions of others.
This is a common symptom. Many people with an
ASD cannot read or express body language. They will hear the words spoken, but
will not fully understand. Irony, sarcasm, and other complicated ways of
speaking may be lost on someone with an ASD. On the flip side, a person with an
ASD may speak without the normal accompanying tones of voice and social cues
one might expect. They may come off as robotic or atonal.
To that point, speaking can also be an issue
for a child with an ASD. They may also parrot what they hear from other people.
The child may repeat what he or she hears on the radio, television, or other
sources. Some children may repeat what they hear verbatim, over and over.
Others may just copy other speech patterns. In either case, this behavior often
takes the place of developing his or her own original speech patterns.
Communication will often continue to be an
issue throughout life. People with an ASD will likely have a hard time in
conversation. Autistic children tend to speak at, instead of with, their peers.
For example, they may go off on a monologue about a current obsession, not
letting the person they are speaking with respond.
What to Do About ASD Symptoms
The severity of symptoms can vary widely. A
child might show many or very few of them. If you see any of these signs, it
does not necessarily mean that your child has autism. But it’s a good indicator
that it is time to visit your doctor.
As long as your child exhibits symptoms, you
should see a doctor regularly. A clinician who spends a great deal of time with
children should observe your child. It can be difficult for a parent to notice
anything unique to their child’s behavior if they are not familiar with typical
patterns of development.