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Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders

There are many different combinations of symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The severity of ASD can also vary from person to person. Most symptoms will appear before 3 years of age with most showing between 18 to 24 months. They may appear at this age because children grow and change rapidly at this stage.

ASD may cause a loss of milestones that were already reached. It can also prevent or slow new milestones. General developmental problems include:

  • Problems with social skills
  • Problems with communication
  • Repetitive behaviors or unusual activities
  • Problems with how the brain receives and responds to sensations around them (processing sensory information)

ASD can cause a wide range of behaviors such as:

  • No eye contact
  • No response to name
  • Not imitating others
  • Little or no speaking
  • Wants to play alone
  • Little interaction or listening to others
  • Aggression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tantrums—can be with little or no prodding
  • Use of language in unusual ways
  • Repetitive behaviors—may spend hours with a single activity over and over again such as rocking or flapping a hand
  • Stare at certain objects for a long time
  • Overreaction to small changes in their environment
  • Sensitivity to sound, smell, taste, sights, and touch
  • Feel pain from a light touch, but ignore more severe pain
  • Experience sounds as colors, and touches as sounds

Trust what you feel. Call your child's doctor if you have any worries about your child's development. Children and their families may benefit from early, intense intervention.

REFERENCES:

Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml. Updated March 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113665/Autism-spectrum-disorders. Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Johnson CP, Myers SM, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1183-1215.

Signs and symptoms. Autism Society website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/Early-Signs-of-Autism-Spectrum-Disorders.aspx. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html. April 26, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

What are the early signs of autism? Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/Early-Signs-of-Autism-Spectrum-Disorders.aspx. Updated September 4, 2015. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/19/2019