Many of the signs shown by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are with social communication and interaction. Some children start showing signs when they are just a few months old, but some have normal years of development and don’t show any symptoms until the first few years of their life. Half of parents of children with ASD notice symptoms by the time their child reaches one year.
Signs in Pre-school Children
Preschool age children who may have autism may have delayed speech development, where there are less than 50 words spoken by age two or there isn’t any speaking at all. Some children with ASD start talking later on in life than normal. Any speech that sounds monotonous or flat, or only communicating in single words despite being able to communicate in sentences, can also be symptoms. Children may not respond when their name is called, even if they have been tested for normal hearing, and they may act negatively when asked to do something by someone else. Those with autism may not be aware of personal space and may not want to interact with children of the same age or with other people. You may notice that children don’t enjoy situations that many other kids the same age enjoy, such as birthday parties. Those showing signs of autism may rather play alone and will avoid eye contact. Children can exhibit certain types of behavior, such as getting upset if there are changes in a routine, or having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on texture or color, as well as the taste of the food. Children may play with toys in repetitive ways, like lining blocks up in order of color instead of using them to build something.
Signs in School Age Children
School age children that already have some experience with language may still prefer to avoid using spoken language, have speech that sounds monotonous, or speak with pre-learned phrases instead of trying to put together new words to form sentences. In response to others, children with autism may take speech very literally and have trouble understanding sarcasm, figures of speech, and metaphors. They can also still react negatively when asked to do something. Children may have trouble staying on topic when asked a question. School age children demonstrate a lot of the same behaviors when it comes to interacting with others and personal space, and they have little interest in making friends and don’t want to be in a lot of social situations. They may show a lot of repetitive behaviors, such as spinning, running back and forth, or rocking. They may stare at lights or spinning objects and have extreme interest in specific topics.