Parenting

Autism: The Early Signs and Symptoms

Autism: The Early Signs and Symptoms

Key Takeaways

  • Children with autism have difficulty with language, speech, and communication.
  • Repetitive behaviors are very common in children with autism. They may appear inflexible and obsessive in their activities and interests. 
  • Children with autism find it difficult to recognize and control their emotions. Instead of understanding their own emotions, they often copy others in addition to mimicking their emotional expressions.

Social Difficulties

Social disconnection is one of the most obvious signs of autism. Children with autism may appear uninterested, or unable to communicate and connect to the social world. Children with autism may not respond to their name being called, and may seem very distant. This is because they have difficulties with face recognition, and have a difficult time interpreting social cues.

For example:

•    The child doesn’t seem to hear when parents and others talk to him or her.

•    The child is completely disconnected from the world around them.

•    The child doesn’t like to be cuddled, touched, or held.

•    The child doesn’t play imaginative games with other children.

•    The child has a difficulty understanding or talking about his or her feelings.

•    The child avoids eye contact.

Communication Issues

Children with autism have difficulty with language, speech, and communication. Very often, children with autism start talking later in life. It’s very common for children with autism to not show affection to their parents or others. This is because they have a hard time understanding social cues, so they naturally feel uncertainty about the intentions of others. They also cannot read or express body language and won't understand any form of sarcasm or irony. 

For example:

•    The child uses facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying.

•    The child doesn’t understand facial expressions, gestures, or tone of voice.

•    The child gives unrelated answers to questions.

•    The child reacts abnormally to sounds, smells, and sights.

•    The child has eccentric ways of moving, and abnormal posture.

•    The child uses language incorrectly.

Autism facts

Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors are very common in children with autism. They may appear inflexible and obsessive in their activities and interests. For example, a child with autism may stare at a normal physical object, like a toy, for hours on end. They may want to learn everything there is to know about their favorite animal, TV show ,or one small subject. This often involves symbols or numbers, such as sports statistics and train schedules. A child may spend hours arranging and rearranging their toys in a specific way, instead of using them for play. Because they are so inflexible, these children will have difficulty adapting to changes in their environment or schedule, resulting in a tantrum. 

Some behavioral tendencies for children with autism include:

•    Rocking their body, spinning in circles, or flapping their hands

•    Having obsessive interests

•    Flicking light switches on and off

•    Tapping their ears or snapping their fingers

•    Staring at lights or moving objects

•    Lining up toys or other objects

Emotions and Expressions

Children with autism find it hard to recognize and control their emotions. Instead of understanding their own emotions, they often copy others and use their emotional expressions. They may also seem to lack empathy with their peers. This is because children with autism develop emotional responses slower than typically developing children. These children may have reactions that are over the top — they might get very angry quickly, throw tantrums, cry, or even resort to self-injury. On the other hand, they may seem to not respond emotionally at all.

Children with autism:

•    Copy the emotional expressions of others.

•    Do not understand other the emotions of other people, or their own.

•    Cannot control their own emotions.

•    Seem to lack empathy with others.

•    Are prone to emotional outbursts.