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Autism is a developmental disability that can cause a complex range of behavioural symptoms and may be mild, moderate or severe.

Autism is a developmental disability that can cause a complex range of behavioural symptoms and may be mild, moderate or severe.
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Symptoms of autism

All children develop language, communication and emotional skills at different times. But, for a child with autism, the impairment is pronounced 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-emotional reciprocity - 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 speech or unable to speak two words by age two
  • Lack of eye contact when speaking
  • Loss of language skills at any age
  • Excessive adherence to routines, patterns or behaviour, distressed at changes
  • Stereotyped or repetitive speech, movements or use of objects, such as rolling wheels before eyes, flapping hands, toe walking
  • Hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input such as sound, pain or textures
  • Restricted or fixated interests such as only playing with certain toys or discussing certain topics
  • Aggressive toward other people or toward self

The Autism Awareness website provides information about the early signs of autism in babies and young children.

Last reviewed: November 2016

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