Autism can cause many different symptoms and people will often experience different symptoms to others, even though they have the same autistic spectrum disorder.
Early symptoms of autism
Symptoms of autism are usually most visible after the age of 18 months but signs may start to appear before this. Possible symptoms of autism amongst babies aged between 6 and 18 months include:
- A lack of facial expressions: this may include your baby not appearing to be happy when you look at them.
- A lack of communication skills: most babies copy noises and make their own sounds when you talk or sing to them, but babies with autism do not tend to do this.
- Babies with autism may not follow your eyes: most babies tend to follow your gaze and copy what you do.
- Greater awareness of unfamiliar sounds: some children with autism may be afraid of noises.
- No response to familiar voices: your baby may not appear to recognise your voice and may not respond when you talk to them.
- Babies with autism very rarely make hand gestures.
Symptoms in toddlers
Symptoms are usually more recognisable when children get older. Examples of symptoms in pre-school children include:
- Delayed speech: children may appear to struggle learning words and stringing sentences together and some may not learn to speak at all.
- Lack of interest in playing with toys.
- Problems with social interaction: children may appear to be disinterested in other children and will usually prefer to be alone.
- Repetitive behaviour: many children develop repetitive habits, such as clicking their fingers, rocking backwards and forwards, sniffing, licking objects and surfaces and flapping their hands and arms.
- Routine: many children with autism have to stick to a strict routine and become upset and agitated if they are disrupted. For example, a child may only be able to watch a film if they can watch the whole thing from beginning to end.
- Reaction to noise: some children with autistic spectrum disorders get upset or angry when they hear certain noises and sounds.
Symptoms in older children
- Communication difficulties
- Language patterns: autistic children may refer to themselves in the third person, rather than the first person.
- Unusual speech rhythm and tone
- Difficulties with social interaction: often children with autism do not understand the difference between talking to friends and their teachers or other adults and many have difficulty joining in conversations and group discussions.
- Personal space: many children get angry and upset when they feel that their personal space is being invaded.
- Difficulties with creativity and abstract subjects: children tend to perform better in subjects that involve facts, numbers and dates.
- Routine: many children with autism prefer to work to a strict routine.