Some parents suspect very early on that their child is somehow not like other children, especially if there are older siblings who behaved very differently. If so, could these differences point to autism? What exactly are the symptoms of autism?
Autism is a term for an extremely broad field. That’s why it is referred to as the autism spectrum. Some cases are so extreme that they catch the immediate attention of parents and pediatricians. However, other cases are diagnosed later in life or never since some people develop successful strategies and coping mechanisms.
For a better idea of what autism is, read this article.
Do you suspect autism? What are the symptoms?
The following is a list of the classic symptoms of autism which, if found in significant number, could indicate the presence of autism.
It’s important to realize that these symptoms can show up in very individually specific and varied ways. Because it’s a spectrum, there are many ways autism can be expressed and a varied manifestation of symptoms.
One often refers to autistic traits when speaking of these symptoms. In order to get a feel for these traits, watch the following video for a clinical explanation of how traits can fit into a diagnosis.
How the symptoms manifest also strongly depends on the age of the child and what stage of development he has reached. As a consequence, this is taken into account during diagnosis. You can read about diagnosing autism in this article.
Symptoms are grouped into the following categories:
- Rarely makes eye contact
- Reacts hardly or not at all to what people in his surroundings are doing
- Doesn’t seem to be listening
- Can’t play games where she “pretends like” she is somebody or is doing something
- Can’t share or take turns
- Is more concerned with the game rules than with playing the game itself
- Retreats because things get too loud or active
- Avoids children his age
- Cries often and at length without any apparent reason
- Reacts rarely or never to his own name
- Seems passive or uninvolved when spoken to
- Only slowly develops the ability to use gestures and signs to refer to things
- Babbles for the first year of life and is suddenly silent the next year
- Starts speaking extremely late or never speaks much
- Prefers communicating with gestures rather than using her voice
- Repeats certain phrases he picked up somewhere over and over, like a mantra
- Has trouble building coherent sentences from words
- Uses special terms that are only comprehensible to other family members
- Can’t communicate well with children her own age
- Uses speech, if at all, only to communicate his own needs
- Likes to lecture at length about his own current special interest topic
- Is not generally interested in the opinion of others
- Doesn’t realize when the other person isn’t interested in a topic
- Can’t tell if the person in front of him is sad or happy
- Seems unconcerned if another child is crying
- Often seems to have an inappropriate facial expression (smiles at something sad or looks overly serious when something should seem funny)
- Can concentrate or be fixated on one object for a very long time (for example a mobile or the wash spinning in the washing machine)
- Repeats the same movement or sound over and over again
- Insists on a very fixed routine in certain things. For instance, will only drink from one cup or can only tolerate a single color for his clothing
- Likes to categorize toys according to color, size or a particular characteristic. Is fascinated by numbers, symbols or letters
- Has a favorite topic that she always comes back to
- Has to do daily tasks in the “right” order. Insists on a strict routine which can be similar to a ritual
- Reacts to deviations in routine, surprises or exceptions with extreme, often destructive, behavior
- Can’t tolerate soft touches
- Can’t stand contact with the fabric of certain clothing
- Can’t stand certain noises or sounds (for instance alarms, ringtones, appliances)
- Doesn’t seem bothered by cold
- Hardly seems to notice/react to pain
- Has great difficulty falling asleep
- Has trouble sleeping through the night
- Loses consciousness temporarily
- Shudders and twitches uncontrollably
- From one moment to the next will suddenly seem frozen immobile
This seems a very comprehensive list, and yet it does not by any means exhaust the extent of all possible symptoms.
Many of these traits are also typical of non-autistic children. Every child develops special interests or small, cute eccentricities. Many children exhibit temporary developmental delays or suffer short-term health issues.
However, if a significant number of the traits above seem to apply to your child, he could be on the spectrum. In that case, we think it’s wise to look into getting a diagnosis.
Have you noticed any of the above symptoms?