What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
A child with autism spectrum disorder may have problems in three different areas -- socializing, communicating, and behavior.
Each child with an autism spectrum disorder will have his or her own individual pattern of behavior: Sometimes, a child's development is delayed from birth; other children develop normally before suddenly losing social or language skills. In some children, a loss of language is the impairment; in others, unusual behaviors (like spending hours lining up toys) predominate.
Parents are usually the first to notice something is wrong. Unfortunately, there is often a significant delay in parents bringing their concerns to the doctor and in doctors referring a child to a specialist. Parents should trust their instincts if they feel their child is not developing normally.
Some red flags are:
- No babbling by 9 months
- No pointing or gestures by 12 months
- Not responding to their name by 12 months of age
- No single words by 16 months
- Lack of pretend play by 18 months
- No two-word phrases by 24 months
- Any loss of language or social skills at any age
Other signs of autism to look for include:
- Extreme difficulty in learning language.
- Inappropriate response to people: A child with autism may avoid eye contact, resist being picked up or cuddled, and seem to tune out the world.
- Inability or reduced ability to play cooperatively with other children or to make friends.
- Inability to understand other people's feelings.
- Need for a rigid, highly structured routine -- and being very distressed by changes in routines
- Extreme hyperactivity or unusual passivity, and extreme resistance to change.
- Aggressive, self-injurious behavior.
- Repetitive body movements, including pacing, hand flicking, twisting, spinning, rocking, or hitting oneself.
- Insensitivity to pain or lack of response to cold or heat.
- Impulsive behavior and no real fear of dangers.
- An unusual attachment to inanimate objects such as toys, strings, or spinning objects.
- Frequent crying and tantrums for no apparent reason.
- Peculiar speech patterns: A child with autism may use words without understanding their meanings.
- Abnormal responses to sensations such as light, sound, and touch: At times, a child with autism may appear deaf or may be extremely distressed by everyday noises or repeat words or phrases over and over.
- Some of these symptoms occur in children with other disabilities. Symptoms can change as the child grows older.
Call Your Doctor About Autism If:
- Your infant or child resists cuddling and doesn't respond to his or her environment or to other people
- By about the age of 1 year, your child is not pointing to objects, bringing items to you, or engaging in simple interactions such as "peek-a-boo"
- By the age of 16 months, your child is not using any words or attempting to communicate
- Your child bangs his or her head or demonstrates self-injurious behavior or aggression on a regular basis
- Your child demonstrates unusually repetitive behavior, such as repeatedly opening and closing doors, turning a toy car upside down and repeatedly spinning its wheels, or lining up objects or toys