Common Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

One of the most frequent questions we hear is “how can you tell if a child has autism?” Understanding the signs at an early age is very important because it influences the ways you care for your child. Autism is complicated, and there’s no single cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as far as scientists currently know. Read on to learn the common characteristics of ASD.

It’s crucial to note that having ASD is in no way a “bad thing.” It’s simply a different way to experience the world, and one that can be better assisted once you know it’s there. On top of that, you aren’t alone. There are plenty of helpful resources and friendly communities so you can properly approach ASD care.

Signs of Autism by Age

There are a few milestones you should pay attention to as your child grows. 

By 6 Months

If you have not yet noticed happy expressions, smiles, or eye contact, talk to your pediatrician.

By 9 Months

Take note of when your child responds to what you’re saying with sounds or facial expressions. If they don’t react much to them, contact your pediatrician.

By 12 Months

When your child reaches 12 months, pay attention to their babbling and gesturing. If you don’t hear them making little sounds or see them pointing or waving, talk to your family’s doctor.

By 16 Months

By 16 months, if your child is not speaking at all (or is speaking very little), contact your pediatrician.

By 24 Months

Finally, when your child is 24 months old, take note of them not speaking in words or phrases. If they don’t speak or imitate, talk to your pediatrician.

What to Look for:

teacher and student spelling out words with individual letters

Not all parents know to look for common characteristics of ASD in their child’s first months. There are several signs that will continue to appear for the rest of your child’s life that can help you determine whether your child is on the spectrum. These signs manifest in different ways depending on the context, from linguistic to behavioral.

Language Signs

Children with ASD use language and develop their speaking, reading, and writing skills differently from other children. Here are a few things you may notice:

  • Trouble with volume control—many children on the autism spectrum speak very loudly or very quietly. 
  • Either inability to whisper or struggling to whisper.
  • Speaking in a monotone or singsong voice.
  • Trouble understanding terms related to direction, like left and right or front and rear.
  • Speaking in short, fragmented sentences.
  • Having an unusually extensive vocabulary.
  • Mixing up pronouns.
  • Repeatedly using a person’s name when talking to them.

Social Signs

ASD also arises in social situations. Here are some examples:

  • Minimal or nonexistent eye contact.
  • Trouble empathizing with others, difficulty recognizing feelings in others.
  • Struggling to understand facial expressions.
  • Offering bluntly honest observations about others.
  • Hyperfixation on a few topics.
  • Trouble making friends and maintaining friendships.
  • Not engaging in group interactions.
  • Having more luck connecting with older or younger people, not their peers.

Behavioral Signs

There are also several behavioral characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Below are a few things to look for:

  • Compulsive or repetitive movements or activities, like humming, tapping, or rocking.
  • Interest in collections and collecting.
  • Trouble switching from one activity to another.
  • Perfectionist tendencies.
  • Fixing or rearranging objects.
  • Trouble understanding the passage of time.
  • Little to no ability to tell when a situation is dangerous.
  • Unexpected outbursts or actions.
  • Sensitivity to certain textures, sounds, tastes, or smells.
  • Sensitivity to loud sounds.
  • Sensitivity to bright light.
  • Shuts down or has a meltdown when overstimulated.
  • Resistant to change.

Intellectual Signs

You can also spot ASD from a few intellectual signs. Here are some examples:

  • Extremely skilled in some areas, extremely lacking in others.
  • Exceptional memory.
  • Short attention span.
  • Trouble switching between subjects.
  • Trouble with reading comprehension.

Physical Signs

Finally, autism can also appear with physical signs. These are a few common examples:

  • Walking without swinging arms.
  • Walking on toes.
  • Trouble transitioning from one walking surface to another.
  • Overly rigid or loose posture.
  • Constipation or incontinence.
  • Lack of care for hygiene.
graphic for blog post "Common Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder"

Now that you understand what the common characteristics of autism are, make sure your child gets the care they need as soon as possible. We can help—contact Ability Life Solutions for a consultation today!

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