Symptoms of autism are varied among individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While autism affects both children and adults, the signs of autism are usually noticeable by the time a child is between 14 and 18 months of age. Autism is a lifelong disability.

Developmental Learning Delays

People with autism have a high level of difficulty learning basic skill concepts, such as brushing their hair or following simple directions. A child with autism may not seem to understand what “hand me the book” means. Autistic children often seem to “forget” how do to things they once accomplished with little effort, such as how to use a cup or how to hold objects. They may stop speaking or interacting with others. They may no longer able to stand on their own without being supported. These changes may appear suddenly or over a period of time.

Over- or Under Sensitivity to Lights, Sounds, Touch, or Tastes

Bright lights and/or loud noises can provoke extreme overreactions. The brain’s ability to process incoming physical stimuli functions differently. As a result, the autistic individual often becoming easily overwhelmed. This informational onslaught can be frightening. On the other end of the spectrum, someone with autism may under-sensitive to their environment. They may be incapable of processing various stimuli and can appear immune to conditions that others would find intolerable. People with autism may not be able to tolerate sharp food taste and may prefer a bland diet. Autistic individuals may not be capable of tolerating touch well, due to an increase or decrease in skin sensitivity

Difficulty Communicating

By the time a child reaches 12-15 months old, they should be able to respond to simple commands such as nodding their head “yes” or “no” when asked a simple question. At this age, they should be making attempts to say words such as “mama” or “dada.” They may even begin to mimic small words they frequently hear such as “yay” or “uh-oh.” Children which display symptoms of autism may not speak or they may begin having longer periods of silence, in which they refuse to attempt to communicate with others, even people they love and trust.

Repetitive Movements and Behaviors

Repeating certain movements, such as purposely shaking the head, a leg or arm, making intentional facial expressions or pulling hair may be symptoms of autism. Repetitive behaviors are also common. If you notice that your child often exhibits certain repetitive behaviors that are not appropriately connected to the task they are performing or environment they are in, you may want to mention the behavior patterns to their physician.

Difficulty in Social Situations

One of the more easily recognized symptoms of autism is having a difficult time socializing with others. Children and adults with autism tend to shut down when placed in a social environment. Individuals with autism are often mistakenly labeled as being “loners” or introverts. People that are “loners” prefer to spend time alone and enjoy their own company over the company of others. People living with autism do not know how to relate to others when they are placed in a situation that requires social interaction. The only way their brains can cope is to block out what is going on around them.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extensive research has shown that the brains of autistic individuals appear to develop differently than their non-autistic peers. This difference in brain development is responsible for the challenges those with autism face. If you suspect your child may have symptoms of autism, contact your child’s physician. Help is available.