Autism Spectrum Disorder

Signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset and the presence of various features such as language and intellectual ability. The manifestations of ASD can differ considerably across individuals. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities (especially in social skills) there is no single behavior that is always present with ASD and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual from diagnosis of ASD.

Frequently asked questions about Autism Spectrum Disorder

How is ASD diagnosed?

Please know that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects each individual differently and at varying degrees. ASD is a lifelong condition, but early intervention contributes to lifelong positive outcomes. This is why early diagnosis is so crucial.

  1. Get a diagnosis.
    If you’re concerned about your loved one, please schedule an appointment with your family doctor.
  2. Get help.
    Education, intervention and therapy are often critical. Easterseals UCP’s Autism team is here to help.

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How can I tell if someone has ASD?

Individuals with ASD interact with others differently. They often appear to have difficulty understanding and showing emotion and may express attachment differently than their peers. However, individuals with ASD report that they want to have social relationships with others and build friendships.

Many individuals with ASD do not develop verbal language skills and rely upon other methods of communicating such as pointing to pictures or using a tablet computer with special language applications. Individuals with ASD often have difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone and volume). Others may have echolalia, which is the repeating of words or phrases over and over.

Individuals with ASD often have a great need for “sameness,” which can make them upset if their environment or time schedules change. Children with ASD may not “play” with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated on specific objects. Persons with ASD have a different reaction to sensory stimuli: seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting things with more or less intensity than others.

Children with ASD often have a different rate of development (especially in the areas of communication, social and cognitive skills). In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate. Sometimes skills will appear in children with ASD at the expected rate or time and then disappear.

What are common ASD behaviors?

Someone with ASD will exhibit behaviors such as:

  • Acts as if they are in their own world.
  • Does not engage in pretend play (if older than 2 years).
  • Does not have a “social smile”.
  • Does not play with toys in the typical way.
  • Does not point to interesting objects or events of interest.
  • Does not respond selectively to their name.
  • Does not speak as well as peers.
  • Has difficulty following simple commands.
  • Has poor eye contact.
  • Has repetitive and odd behaviors.
  • Has unusually long and severe temper tantrums.
  • Prefers to play alone.
  • Seems to “tune others out”.
  • Shows unusual attachment to inanimate objects, especially hard ones like flashlights or chains versus a teddy bear or blanket.
  • Unable to say what is wanted, preferring to lead you by the hand or get desired objects on their own (even at risk of danger).

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