Signs and Symptoms

Social Symptoms

Children with autism may have great difficulties in social development.  Often they struggle to learn to engage in the back and forth rhythm of a social interaction.  They may avoid contact or prefer to be alone and fail to seek comfort or respond to another’s display of emotion.  They may respond to hugs in an indifferent or overwhelmed way, refuse to cuddle or dislike touch, textures or sensations.  It may seem as if the child is not connected to others at all.

Children with autism may be slower at learning social information.  They may struggle to read social cues such as facial expressions, vocal tone or gestural communications.  They also may have difficulty seeing the world from someone else’s perspective and may be unable to predict or understand other’s actions.  Occasionally they may be disruptive or physically aggressive when they become overwhelmed.

Communication Difficulties

Children with autism often have significant communication delays.  These delays may be in verbal communication or gestural communication.  Babbling, saying words or responding to a question or word may be absent or developing more slowly in a child with autism.  They may also have gestural communication delays such as turning to look when hearing his/her name, pointing for a toy and sharing eye contact.  Many children with autism develop language, but some learn to communicate using sign language or pictures systems.

Sometimes children with autism can speak, but struggle to put words together in a meaningful way or to use language in a functional manner.  They may speak only single words or repeat a word or phrase over and over.  Some may repeat or “parrot” what others way or something they hear.  This is called echolalia.

Some children with autism may have much language, with an extensive, unusually large vocabulary.  However, they may struggle in sustaining a back and forth conversation.  They may also be unable to read body language, tone of voice or “phrases of speech.”

Repetitive Behaviors

Individuals with autism often have repetitive behaviors.  They may be extreme and highly apparent or more subtle.  Some individuals flap their arms or hands or walk on their toes.  Some suddenly freeze in a position or pantomime certain actions.  Children with autism may line up their toys in a certain way, rather than using them for pretend play.  They may become extremely upset when their order is disrupted or changed and require complete consistence in the environment.  Sometimes these behaviors come in the form of strong, persistent preoccupation.  They may be unusual in their scope, topic or intensity.

For more information about signs and symptoms, visit: http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms

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