Characteristics of Autism
The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is based on the individual's symptoms, characteristics, or behaviors. The more traits a person exhibits that are characteristic of autism, the more likely the individual is to be classified as having autism. There is no one defining feature or symptom of autism; however, most have some type of social-communication difference.
The Autism Spectrum
There are a few characteristics associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder that may be noticeable as early as 18 months of age. These include:
- Not following the gaze of others towards objects and events of interest
- Not pointing to direct others to look at something
- Not doing a variety of imaginative pretend play
Below is a list of behaviors that are commonly associated with autism. Again, one does not need to exhibit all of these behaviors in order to be considered "autistic."
- No, little, delayed or unusual speech; sometimes repetitive speech
- Anti-social, asocial, or social but awkward
- Normal behavior and then changed sometime between 1 and 2 years of age (often referred to as "regressive autism")
- Insistence on sameness (similar to obsessive-compulsive behavior)
- No or little social eye contact
- Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking)
- Little or no interest in same age children
- Using objects or his/her body in unusual ways
- Suspected deaf (unresponsive to some, but not all, sounds)
- Under-reactive or over-reactive to certain sensory stimuli, such as sounds, touch, smells, and tastes
- Does not use facial expressions appropriately
- Excessive and/or severe tantruming
- Aggressive towards others and/or self-aggressive
- Picky eater
- Sleeps very little
The Autism Research Institute in San Diego (4182 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116) distributes a diagnostic checklist, the E-2 checklist, and will score the checklist for no charge.