All children develop language, communication and emotional skills at different times. But, for a child with autism, this development is seriously impaired and has a significant impact on their lives.
The behaviours associated with autism fall into two broad areas: impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests. For some children the symptoms and impairments are mild, but others exhibit severe autistic behaviours.
The common signs and symptoms of autism are:
- lack of social or emotional exchanges like pointing, smiling, showing you things
- lack of non-verbal communication such as nodding and shaking head, using hand gestures
- difficulty in developing and maintaining relationships appropriate to the age, such as peer play, lack of close friends
- delayed expressed speech and understanding of speech
- lack of eye contact when speaking
- loss of language skills at any age
- excessively following routines, patterns or behaviour, and becoming distressed at changes
- stereotyped or repetitive speech, movements or use of objects, such as rolling wheels before eyes, flapping hands, toe walking
- strongly reacting to sensory input such as sound, pain or textures
- restricted or fixated interests such as only playing with certain toys or discussing certain topics
- being aggressive toward other people or toward self
The Autism Awareness website provides information about the early signs of autism in babies and young children.
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Last reviewed: September 2018