What Are the Main Symptoms of Autism?

Reviewed on 6/24/2021

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person's behavior and ability to communicate and interact with others. The main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder fall under the categories of social communication and restricted and repetitive behavior.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person's behavior and ability to communicate and interact with others. The main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder fall under the categories of social communication and restricted and repetitive behavior.

Autism is a developmental disorder that has an effect on a person's behavior and can make it difficult for them to communicate and interact with others. 

It is often referred to as “autism spectrum disorder” because symptoms vary widely, with some people having a few mild symptoms while others are affected by severe and disabling symptoms. Autism spectrum disorder is classified in levels one through three, ranging from mild to severe impairment and need for support.

The main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are categorized into two general areas: 

  • Social communication 
    • Difficulty in social interaction and communication 
    • No displayed interest in communicating
    • Difficulty with or lack of interaction with people who are close to them 
    • Difficulty learning to interact with others
    • Problems using and interpreting nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and body postures
    • Inability to speak or understand 
    • Lack of interest in developing friendships
    • Lack of understanding of social conventions or needs of others
    • Lack of interest in sharing interests, activities, or achievements (impaired joint attention)
    • Playing alone (in children) 
    • Babies may resist cuddling, avoid eye contact, or not spread arms in anticipation of being picked up
  • Restricted and repetitive behavior, activities, and interests
    • Insistence on specific and rigid routines or rituals 
      • Changes in routine may be upsetting or frustrating
      • Tantrums or meltdowns may occur if routines change
    • Limited interests
    • Repetitive body movements, such as rocking, swaying, hand or finger flapping or twisting, dipping, or walking on tip-toe
    • Extreme sensitivity to sounds, tastes, or touch
      • Resistance to being touched or increased sensitivity to certain kinds of touch
      • Refusing to eat foods with certain tastes or textures
      • Seeming indifference to pain
      • Hypersensitivity to certain frequencies or types of sound or lack of response to nearby sounds or sounds that would startle others 

Other characteristics of autism spectrum disorder may include: 

  • Delayed or absent language skills
    • Language is not used to communicate 
      • Language may consist of repeating phrases or words spoken by others (echolalia)
    • Difficulty starting or maintaining conversations
    • Impaired ability to understand 
  • Irregular cognitive skills
    • For example, may excel at tasks that require memorization but have problems with tasks that require interpretation, reasoning, or abstract thinking
    • May have seemingly expert (“savant”) skills in memory, mathematics, art, music, or puzzles, despite significant deficiencies in other areas
  • Abnormally large head

How Is Autism Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is made with a medical history, physical exam, neurologic exam, and testing of a child's language, social, and cognitive skills. 

Neurologists, psychiatrists, child psychologists, developmental-behavioral pediatricians, speech therapists, and other professionals who are experts in the condition evaluate a child’s signs and symptoms to either diagnose autism spectrum disorder or to rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms.

What Is the Treatment for Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder cannot be cured, but a comprehensive treatment plan based upon a child's age, the severity of the symptoms, any underlying medical problems, and other individual factors can be created to help a child reach his or her full potential. 

Treatments for autism spectrum disorder include therapy, school support for children, and medications to treat other conditions that may accompany the disorder. Treatments may include:

  • Therapy 
    • Speech-language therapy 
    • Physical and occupational therapy for coordination
    • Social skills training to help with conversational skills and understanding of social cues
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety
    • Parent-mediated therapy
    • Joint attention therapy
    • Nutritional therapy
  • School support 
    • Assistance with reading and writing
    • Help with organization
    • Educational and school-based therapies
  • Medications 

QUESTION

Autism is a developmental disability. See Answer

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Reviewed on 6/24/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/autism-spectrum-disorder-beyond-the-basics?search=autism&source=search_result&selectedTitle=4~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=4

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/causes

https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-diagnosis-criteria-dsm-5

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatments