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The Most Common Symptoms of Autism

April 21, 2014

The most common symptoms of ASD include a range of mental and emotional impairments, including cognitive and intellectual problems, difficulties with regulating emotions, challenging behaviors, abnormal sleep patterns, seizures, and gastrointestinal disturbances that can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. For a diagnosis of ASD, symptoms can begin at birth but are usually recognized as being different before the age of 3. Even though symptoms and the severity of ASD may vary, abilities to communicate and interact with others will be affected to some degree in every child who has autism.


Social Symptoms

At the age when children typically enjoy playtime with other children, some children with autism are withdrawn, do not make friends, do not play interactive games, and may prefer to spend time alone rather than with other children or adults. They may show little imaginative or pretend play, may not copy the actions of other children or adults, and some children seem to prefer rituals as a form of play.


Sensory Symptoms

Often, children with autism have sensory issues, in that they perceive the world around them differently than do typically developing children. They may not startle at loud noises but may find a normal level of noise to be painful and are often seen holding their hands over their ears. You may see children with autism occupying themselves with odd sensory behaviors, such as rubbing surfaces, licking or mouthing objects, or chewing articles of clothing. Children with mild autism may be overly sensitive to colors, lights, smells, sounds, or textures or less sensitive to heat, cold, or discomfort. They may be either numb or overly sensitive to pain. Responses to sensory issues might include rocking, hand flapping, twirling, or repetitive sounds.


Behaviors Common to Children with Autism

Short attention span

Very strong requirement for sameness

Repetitive physical movements

Extremely narrow interests

Aggressive behaviors to self or other children

“Meltdowns,” being overwhelmed, or extreme temper tantrums


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The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, but...

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