Having autism doesn’t mean everybody automatically has all the same symptoms; they can vary considerably for many reasons. However, there are several core symptoms that all autistic people will have to a certain degree, and you should be aware of them if your child or family member does exhibit them.
Nonverbal and verbal methods of communication.
- Slow to start talking or never talking. Up to 40% of people who have autism don’t speak at all.
- Difficulty starting or carrying on a conversation.
- Repeating words and phrases over and over because they have heard them before.
- Trouble understanding the other person’s viewpoint. For example, someone using humor may not be identified as being funny by a person with autism. They may take the conversation literally instead.
Minimal interest in playing or activities.
- Younger children may focus on a specific part of a toy instead of the whole toy.
- Adults and older children may have a powerful fascination with trading cards, license plates or video games.
- Creating and maintaining routines. A child will want to eat his or her food in a particular order every day and at the same time.
- There may be signs of stereotyped behavior, such as rocking the body and/or flapping hands.
Relationships and social interaction.
- Children may find it impossible to make friends with others the same age.
- There are problems with the development of nonverbal communication abilities including facial expressions, making eye contact and body posture.
- Not wanting to share interests, achievements and enjoyment with others.
- Lack of empathy. Autistic people have trouble understanding other people’s emotions.
Symptoms are generally first noticed by parents during a child’s initial three years of life. Even though it’s present from birth, autism may be hard to identify during infancy. The toddler may not like to be held by the parent. He may not want to play. He may not even start talking and it may appear that he’s deaf if he doesn’t react to noise.
Once an autistic child becomes a teenager, his behavior will change. He may develop certain skills and may be under-developed in others. Puberty and sexuality may confuse him. It’s easy for an autistic teenager to suffer from epilepsy, anxiety and/or depression.
The good news is that autistic adults can often times hold down a job and live by themselves. They need a minimum of 33% communication skills in order to be at least partly independent. Other adults need more help, especially if they can’t talk. They may get involved in residential treatment programs, though.
Many autistic adults are often very successful and live independent lives, but they may have trouble relating to others, despite having a high degree of intelligence. 10% of autistic adults are considered savants, being very skilled in activities like music, calculus, remembering long name lists or calendar dates, for example.
Autism may easily be confused with other medical problems, so it’s essential that you see a doctor if you notice any unusual behavior in your child, family member or relative. Treatment can only commence after the problem has been diagnosed.