Signs and Symptoms of Autism
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Autism?
Social Skills Difficulty:
The social issues (problems in interacting, forming and maintaining relationships) children with autism face lead to serious problems in their everyday lives. For example, by his first birthday a toddler interacts with others by looking at people in the eye, copying words or actions of others, using simple gestures like clapping or waving, etc. But toddlers with autism have delayed milestones and they have a difficult time learning to interact with others and their environment. As these children grow up, they show a lack of interest in interacting with other people, which in turn leads to social isolation and other children not wanting to play with them.
Examples of Social Issues related to Autism:
• Poor eye contact
• Does not respond to his name
• Prefers to stay alone
• Shows inappropriate expressions
• Does not understand non-verbal cues of others
• Has difficulty in understanding or expressing his/her own feelings
• Avoids touch or seeks more physical touch for example hugging, kissing, etc.
Communication Skills Difficulty:
Each child with autism spectrum disorder differs in communication skills from the others. Some of them can speak well, whereas others may be mute, still some others would have speech in the form of one or two words. About 25 to 30% of children with autism speak a few words at 12 to 18 months of age after which, they may be lost. Most of these children have a history of language developmental delay.
Examples of difficulty in communication skills are:
• Delayed development of speech and language skills
• Repetitive words or sentences over and over again (echolalia)
• Irrelevant speech i.e. gives unrelated answers to questions
• Does not point or respond to pointing
Unusual interests and behavioral issues:
Individuals with autism often have unusual interests and behaviors.
• Plays with toys in an unusual manner
• Obsession with irrelevant objects like bottle caps, wires, buttons, key rings, water pipes, etc.
• Lines up objects or toys
• Minor changes in the routine or environment can be very upsetting
• Repetitive behaviors like hand flapping, rocking, spinning objects
• Smelling objects or people
• Strong avoidance of certain food items, tastes, textures of clothing, etc.
• Unusual fears or dislikes, e.g. cutting nails, flowers
• Self stimulatory behaviors like rocking, tapping hands/ feet
While social and behavioral issues are more obvious it these children, some characteristic physical features may also be noticed. These may also add to their difficulties in interacting with their environment.
Examples of physical problems in children with Autism:
• Abnormal tone of muscle (too tight or too loose muscles)
• Poor proximal muscle strength (i.e. of shoulders and hip muscles)
• Flat Feet
• Poor eye-hand coordination
• Limb apraxia, (difficulty in performing planned movements of the arms or legs)
• Balance problems
• Abnormal reaction to sensory stimuli
• Increased hyperactivity
• Impulsive behavior, for e.g. acting without thinking
• Short attention span, gets distracted very easily
• Self - injurious behavior like head banging, biting oneself, etc.
• Aggressive behavior towards others like biting, scratching, pulling others hair, throwing objects, etc.
• Throwing temper tantrums
• Odd sleep and food habits, for example; may have disturbed sleep or may not eat food items which are white in color, etc.