Signs of Autism
Impaired Social InteractionThe hallmark indication of autism is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice such signs of autism in babies. As early as infancy, a baby with autism may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with autism may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
Problems With Verbal and Nonverbal CommunicationThe second common autism sign is difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication. Children with autism may fail to respond to their name and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can't understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don't watch other people's faces for clues about appropriate behavior. They lack empathy.
Repetitive Behaviors or Narrow, Obsessive InterestsMany children with signs of autism engage in repetitive movements, such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior, such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of "I" or "me."
Children with autism don't know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.
(Click Diagnosing Autism for more about how possible symptoms of autism are used to make a diagnosis.)