Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder


We’ve put together a great resource for parents who would like to understand the autism spectrum disorder and recognize the signs in their toddlers and children. Our San Diego based organization, Be Involved. Act Now. Champion Autism. (BIANCA), is knowledgeable about autism symptoms at every stage and degree of severity. These descriptions give a guide to many of the behaviors observed in toddlers, children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. It is important to remember that everyone is different and very few children or adults will show all these characteristics. The three lists show a typical progression through childhood into adulthood.

Signs of Autism in Toddlers

There are various signs a toddler may exhibit if they have autism spectrum disorder. Some of these traits may include a resistance to solid foods, unusual responses to people and lack of eye contact. A combination of these characteristics is a stronger indication of autism than one isolated sign. The following are symptoms of autism in toddlers, between the ages of 12 to 36 months:

  • No desire to be cuddled and strongly prefer familiar people
  • Treat people as objects rather than a source of comfort
  • Constant crying or unusual absence of crying
  • Repetitive movements, such as hand-shaking or flapping, prolonged rocking or spinning of objects
  • Obsessive interest in certain toys or objects whilst ignoring other things
  • Extreme resistance to change in routines and/or their environment
  • Avoids social situations, preferring to be alone
  • Limited development of play activities, particularly imaginative play
  • May have sleeping problems
  • Absence of speech, or unusual speech patterns such as repeating words and phrases (echolalia)
  • Difficulties with toilet training
  • Extremely distressed by certain noises or busy public places such as shopping centers

Signs of Autism in Children

The more distressing signs of autism in children usually decrease as they get a little older. As they acclimate to their environment, there can be a period of relative calm and adjustment. Although the resistance to the demands of others may still be present. Accompanying this behavioral trait, a child may demonstrate a lack of motivation or desire to please others. In addition to these signs, other autism symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Increase in social interest as they better tolerate playing beside other children and begin to show attachments to certain people
  • Echolalic speech decreases and spontaneous speech emerges. About half of the children who are non-verbal in the preschool years will acquire some speech
  • School behavior problems can occur, often because the child finds it difficult to make social judgements about other children.
  • Ritualistic and compulsive behavior patterns are very common
  • Hyperactivity and a poor attention span are often observed, usually because the child has trouble understanding instructions from the teacher
  • The child’s difficulty understanding other people and interpreting what is going on around them leads to significant levels of anxiety
  • These children have difficulty transferring skills learned in one setting to another setting

Autism Symptoms in Adulthood

As a child goes through adolescence and enters adulthood, their behavioral outbursts and mood imbalances are exaggerated compared to others in their age group. However, individuals with autism spectrum disorder all eventually resume a calmer demeanor later on after this phase. Children with autism symptoms exhibit certain behavioral characteristics in their teens, such as delayed sexual interest, differences in physical appearance, possibility of seizures and increased anxiety. Young adults who exhibit signs of autism are able to partly overcome their difficulties with specialized and sustained support.

Contact Us for More Information

BIANCA is a nonprofit organization that aims to serve as a resource for families in San Diego, CA, who want their autistic children to have healthy physical and psychological development. Call us at (888) 815-2676 for more information.

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