What are the symptoms of autism?
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests during early childhood, between the age of one and two years. Sometimes, these symptoms may also appear earlier or later. Early symptoms may include a marked delay in language or social development.
The symptoms of ASD are mostly divided into two groups:
- Problems with communication and social interaction
- Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities.
To be diagnosed with autism, a person must experience symptoms in both of these categories.
ASD can involve a range of issues with communication, many of which appear before age 5. As they age, they might have difficulty talking or very limited speaking skills. Other autistic children might develop language skills at an uneven pace. If there’s a particular topic that’s very interesting to them, for example, they might develop a very strong vocabulary for talking about that one topic. But they might have difficulty communicating about other things.
As they interact with others, autistic children might have difficulty sharing their emotions and interests with others or find it hard to maintain back-and-forth conversation. Nonverbal communication, like maintaining eye contact or body language, might also remain difficult.
These challenges with communication can persist throughout adulthood.
In addition to the communication and social issues mentioned above, autism also includes symptoms related to body movements and behaviors.
These can include:
- repetitive movements, like rocking, flapping their arms, spinning, or running back and forth, lining objects, like toys, up in strict order, and getting upset when that order is disturbed
attachment to strict routines, like those around bedtime or getting to school
- repeating words or phrases they hear someone say over and over again
- getting upset over minor changes
- focusing intently on parts of objects, like the wheel of a toy truck or the hair of a doll
- unusual reactions to sensory input, like sounds, smells, and tastes
- obsessive interests
- exceptional abilities, like musical talent or memory capabilities
Some autistic people might experience additional symptoms, including:
- delayed movement, language, or cognitive skills
- gastrointestinal symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea
- excessive worry or stress
- unusual levels of fear (either higher or lower than expected)
- hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive behaviors
- unexpected emotional reactions
- unusual eating habits or preferences
- unusual sleep patterns