Common Characteristics of Autism for Kids

Kids with autism have difficulties relating to and communicating with other people. When they’re babies, they don’t look at others a lot. By two years of age, they often won’t sound like a conversation. Also they won’t imitate others with behavior like clapping or waving.

Kids with autism will often repeat a particular behavior over and over, or become fixated on an object. For example, they might repeatedly turn lights on and off, or focus on the wheels of a toy car, rather than playing with the whole car and engaging in pretend play.

Many kids with autism also have unusual sensory issues, although this isn’t necessary for a diagnosis. They might:

  1. Be especially sensitive to sound, which is why they raise their hands to their ears to block out noise.
  2. Like the feel of objects and smell and sniff at everything around them.
  3. Want to eat only foods with a certain texture – for example, they’ll be happy to eat soft, smooth food, but will refuse anything lumpy.
  4. Use their peripheral vision a lot, or tilt their heads to look at objects from a particular angle.

Some kids with autism have below-average intelligence. Others will have intelligence within the typical range – often called ‘high-functioning’ autism.

Autism can also be present with other conditions, such as epilepsy and other disorders like Fragile X syndrome.

Autistic disorder can be diagnosed at about two years of age in most kids. At this age, it can usually be seen whether a baby or child’s development is conforming to accepted, age-based milestones, particularly in relation to social and emotional interaction and communication.


Checklist for Signs of Autism
    1. Social interactions

Kids with autism might:

      • Seem to be in their own world
      • Show little eye contact – for example, during interaction or to draw attention to something
      • Not use gestures – for example, lifting arms to be picked up
      • Not share enjoyment or interests – for example, they might not point to an object or event to share it
      • Show little emotion or empathy
      • Not respond to their names
      • Show no interest in other children or peers
    1. Communication

Kids with autism might:

      • Have little or no babble
      • Have little or no spoken language
      • Not engage in pretend play – for example, they won’t feed a baby doll
      • Have ‘echolalia’, which means they echo or mimic words or phrases without meaning or in an unusual tone of voice
      • Have difficulty understanding and following simple instructions – for example, ‘Give me the block’ might be difficult for them
    1. Repetitive or persistent behaviors

Kids with autism might:

      • Have intense interest in certain objects – they’ll get ‘stuck’ on one particular toy or object
      • Focus narrowly on an object – for example, on a detail like opening and closing the door on a toy bus rather than pretending to drive it
      • Insist on following routines and be easily upset by change
      • Show repetitive body movements or unusual body movements – for example, back-arching, hand-flapping or walking on toes
    1. Sensory issues

Kids with autism might:

    • Be extremely sensitive to sensory experiences – for example, they might be easily upset by certain sounds, or only eat foods with a certain texture
    • Seek sensory stimulation – for example, they might like deep pressure touch or vibrating objects like the washing machine
    • Like to flutter their fingers at the side of their eyes to watch the light flicker


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