Getting an accurate diagnosis of any neurological disorder is key for proper treatment. With that in mind, what are the characteristics of autism?
Common Characteristics of Autism
Ultimately, the most important thing is understanding how to help a child with their specific needs after their autism diagnosis, and identifying the characteristics of their case can be key to this. There are three core deficits of autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
- Impaired communication: A delay in or lack of development of spoken language or gestures
- Impaired social interaction: Lack of spontaneous sharing, social or emotional reciprocity, or difficulty developing peer relationships
- Stereotypy: Inappropriate repetitive movements that are maintained by automatic reinforcement
Each of these core deficits has a direct effect on the examples of what you will read below.
Persistent Challenges in Social Interaction
These are often some of the first characteristics that will present in children with autism. However, because development varies from person to person, it can be a while before parents or therapists are willing to consider these problems as indicators of a child on the spectrum.
Some of these social communications include issues with back-and-forth conversation, difficulty in understanding social cues, or trouble with developing relationships. In these examples, a child might refuse to answer questions when prompted, or avoid eye contact when it is attempted, and then have subsequent difficulty making friends.
Once you begin to notice these patterns in a child, it is not cause for panic or concern. Instead, make sure to have them evaluated by a psychologist, and if there is a diagnosis of autism, begin educating yourself and your family on how to best adjust.
Unusual Reactions to Sensory Stimulus
Put simply, this would be when your child adversely reacts to a particular environment; this can include the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel.
This can be for a number of reasons, including a sensory overload in the way their brain processes different stimuli. This is often called hypersensitivity, and when coupled with other characteristics, it can be a leading indicator for an autism diagnosis.
It is important to not reprimand your child for reacting like this to a stimulus; by overtly reacting to certain behaviors you will run the risk of inadvertently reinforcing that behavior, resulting in more frequent occurrences. This is where having a metered approach through therapy and education will best help your child adjust to hypersensitivity.
Another characteristic of autism is a fixation on objects, topics, or certain activities. This is where the ‘savant syndrome’ of autism might present itself (this is present in less than 10 percent of people with autism), though it is realistically more likely to manifest as obsessive behavior.
Often, it will be an object of comfort like a toy, or an interesting topic that they learned about in school, or an activity that brings them comfort. People with autism thrive on routine, and a break in their repetitive behavior can be upsetting to them.
If your child is exhibiting obsessive behaviors, it does not necessarily correlate with an autism diagnosis, but it is worth considering. Sometimes other undiagnosed issues can lead to similar behaviors, so make sure you speak with a specialist about the possible range of outcomes and diagnoses before enrolling your child in a program.
There is no standard for how autism affects a child; each case is unique. While some children will have perfectly normal speech development patterns, up to 40 percent of children with an ASD are unable to speak verbally.
Similarly, a child with autism may have trouble remembering words or might have a delay in their ability to speak. Phrase repetition, talking to themselves, or attempting to create and use their own language might be a symptom as well.
Because speech is such a nuanced part of all human activity, making assumptions based on early patterns is difficult. However, if there are persistent issues along with other cues, it may be time to look into how ABA therapy, speech-language, or other therapy can help your child communicate more easily.
The good news is that even if early speech development is inhibited, many children with autism develop skills to be able to communicate effectively. Most importantly, the quality of life for a child will almost always be improved if there is an effective treatment for their language skills and early communication issues.
Other Common Characteristics
Some other quick behavioral cues to take note of that, when paired with the characteristics above, can lead to an autism diagnosis include:
- Impulsive or aggressive behavior: Some childhood aggression is normal, but unprovoked outbursts can be cause for concern.
- Short attention span: Another cue that might be difficult to separate from normal childhood development (or even other disorders), but one that can be a key component to identify before an autism assessment.
- Unusual eating and sleeping habits: Any child will exhibit some reluctance to eating certain foods or may experience difficulty with sleep. Children with an autism diagnosis, however, will at times display this more often. If you believe your child is exhibiting irregular patterns of eating or sleeping, document and contact a specialist as soon as possible.
- Lack of environmental or self-awareness: A child diagnosed with autism may require more attention in certain safety situations.
Autism Treatment at Ally Pediatric Therapy
There are many characteristics of autism, and being aware of the most prevalent ones will help you get an accurate diagnosis of your child earlier. For any and all of their behavioral tendencies, it is important to recognize how you can work constructively with your family, teachers, and specialists to improve them.
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, our mission is in the name: to assist children with autism and their families on the pathway to a better life. If you believe your child is exhibiting some of the common symptoms of autism, please reach out today. A diagnosis and treatment plan can make all the difference in the world, and we’d love to help.