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What are the Signs or Symptoms?

Early signs of autism often include sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, and mental health challenges issues such as anxiety, depression and attention defecit. These indicators usually appear in children between the age of 2 and 3, but can appear as early as 18 months, and the timing and intensity of symptoms can vary widely from child to child. People with autism often have trouble with social communication and may exhibit repetitive behaviors. They also usually have sensory issues that involve being overly or under-sensitive to sounds, tastes, lights, touch, smells, pain and other stimuli.

Children with ASD may:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)

  • not look at objects when another person points at them

  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all

  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone

  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings

  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to

  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds

  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them

  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language

  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions

  • not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)

  • repeat actions over and over again

  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes

  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound

  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)