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What are the Symptoms?
June 27, 2006

As the name "autism spectrum disorder" says, ASDs cover a wide range of behaviors and abilities. People who have ASDs, like all people, differ greatly in the way they act and what they can do. No two people with ASDs will have the same symptoms. A symptom might be mild in one person and severe in another person. Some examples of the types of problems and behaviors a child or adult with an ASD might have follow.

Social skills: People with ASDs might not interact with others the way most people do, or they might not be interested in other people at all. People with ASDs might not make eye contact and might just want to be alone. They might have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings. Children with ASDs might not like to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to. Some people with ASDs might not seem to notice when other people try to talk to them. Others might be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them.


Speech, language, and communication: About 40% of children with ASDs do not talk at all. Others have echolalia, which is when they repeat back something that was said to them. The repeated words might be said right away or at a later time. For example, if you ask someone with an ASD, "Do you want some juice?" he or she will repeat "Do you want some juice?" instead of answering your question. Or a person might repeat a television ad heard sometime in the past. People with ASDs might not understand gestures such as waving goodbye. They might say "I" when they mean "you", or vice versa. Their voices might sound flat and it might seem like they cannot control how loudly or softly they talk. People with ASDs might stand too close to the people they are talking to, or might stick with one topic of conversation for too long. Some people with ASDs can speak well and know a lot of words, but have a hard time listening to what other people say. They might talk a lot about something they really like, rather than have a back-and-forth conversation with someone.


Repeated behaviors and routines: People with ASDs might repeat actions over and over again. They might want to have routines where things stay the same so they know what to expect. They might have trouble if family routines change. For example, if a child is used to washing his or her face before dressing for bed, he or she might become very upset if asked to change the order and dress first and then wash.

Children with ASDs develop differently from other children. Children without ASDs develop at about the same rate in areas of development such as motor, language, cognitive, and social skills. Children with ASDs develop at different rates in different areas of growth. They might have large delays in language, social, and cognitive skills, while their motor skills might be about the same as other children their age. They might be very good at things like putting puzzles together or solving computer problems, but not very good at some things most people think are easy, like talking or making friends. Children with ASDs might also learn a hard skill before they learn an easy one. For example, a child might be able to read long words, but not be able to tell you what sound a "b" makes. A child might also learn a skill and then lose it. For example, a child may be able to say many words, but later stop talking altogether.

Sources:

Mauk JE, Reber M, Batshaw ML. Autism and other pervasive developmental disorders (4th edition). In: ML Batshaw, editor. Children with disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes; 1997.

Powers MD. What is autism? In: MD Powers, editor. Children with autism: a parents' guide, 2nd edition. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House; 2000. pp. 1-44.

Date: June 27, 2006
Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
 

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