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Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses

Symptoms of Autism

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Sep 25th 2018

Autistic symptoms cluster into two groups: social communication/social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities.

Communication issues include:

  • difficulty in social and emotional interactions with others
  • trouble using nonverbal communication skills
  • difficulty developing, maintaining and understanding relationships with others.

People with autism spectrum disorder have:

  • a tendency towards isolation
  • difficulty making eye contact
  • an inability to develop appropriate peer relationships.

Patterns of behavioral symptoms in autism spectrum disorder typically include:

  • stereotyped or repetitive body movements
  • insistence on a set routine that cannot be changed
  • highly restrictive interests that are strongly focused on
  • either a lot of interest or no interest in sensory aspects of their surrounding environment.

Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have other mental health conditions or challenges that they face. Because of this, in addition to the two main categories of symptoms, there are several specifiers or subcategories that can be applied to an autism spectrum disorder. These include:

  • With or without accompanying intellectual ability
  • With or without accompanying language impairment
  • Associated with a known medical condition or genetic condition or environmental factor
  • Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental or behavioral disorder
  • With catatonia

This article will not focus in on these specifiers, but instead on the two core groups of symptoms that are needed to be present for a diagnosis to be made.

These and other specific symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder are described in greater detail in the following sections. We refer to children experiencing these issues in the discussion because the disorder is usually first identified and most aggressively addressed in childhood. However, please note that these specific issues also apply to adults with autism spectrum disorder as well.


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