Autism Spectrum Disorders: Signs & Symptoms

  • Unresponsiveness

    Unresponsiveness

    Babies that fail to respond to their name by the age of 12 months or that are consistently unresponsive to the voice of a parent may be displaying early signs of an ASD.

  • Temper tantrums

    Temper tantrums

    Other signs include resistance to physical affection, crying when hugged or held and frequent temper tantrums. Children who have an ASD are often attached to routine and may get upset if it changes.

  • Unusual sensory responses

    Unusual sensory responses

    Over or under reactions to pain or loud noise is common among children with ASD. Abnormal eating habits are another symptom, with some children preferring only a few foods and others eating nonfood items like dirt or rocks. Chronic constipation and diarrhea may occur.

  • Playing alone

    Playing alone

    Children with ASD prefer to play alone and may only interact with others to achieve a desired goal. Avoiding eye contact is common. Some children with ASD may not be interested in other people at all, while others may want friends but not understand how to develop relationships. Learning to take turns and share can be difficult for children with ASD.

  • Difficulty communicating

    Difficulty communicating

    People with ASD have trouble understanding jokes, sarcasm or teasing. Communication skills vary among children, with about 40% not speaking at all. Between 25% and 30% develop words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Those who do speak may repeat certain words or phrases over and over, reverse pronouns or talk in a flat, robot-like, or sing song voice. They might talk about something they like a lot instead of having a back-and-forth conversation.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disorders that pose social, behavioral and communication challenges that range from mild to severe. The CDC estimates that one in every 110 U.S. children have an ASD and approximately 730,000 people aged 0 to 21 years currently live with the disorder. On average, boys are four- to five- times more likely than girls to develop the disorder.

ASDs begin before the age of 3 years. Some children develop symptoms in the first few months of life, whereas others appear to develop normally until the age of about 18 to 24 months. Learn more about how to recognize ASDs in the slideshow below.

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