Autism spectrum disorder symptoms vary from child to child, but there are some characteristics that autistic children seem to share in some ways. Autism is becoming so widespread that many pediatricians routinely screen patients for this disorder at 18 months and at 2 years of age. More boys are affected than girls, and rates of autism spectrum disorder are increasing 10-17% annually. It isn’t known why there are more cases, but it is suspected that environmental factors may be affecting this disorder.

symptomsPediatricians often ask parents to observe for autism spectrum disorder symptoms in their children. If a child doesn’t babble, point, respond to his or her name, or try to communicate by the age of one year, parents may be asked by their child’s doctor to document any progress and report it back at their next visit. Also, if a child doesn’t speak one word by 16 months of age, this is also a concern as is not speaking two word combinations by two years of age. If a child did communicate, but loses his or her ability to smile or make eye contact, this could also be a sign of autism. These are the very earliest possible signs of autism, and they help pediatricians identify the disorder by the age of 18 months in most children.

In addition, if a child doesn’t smile and doesn’t seem to know how to play with toys as he or she gets a bit older, this is another symptom that needs to be watched. Sometimes autistic children seem to want to be left alone. Autistic children may be attached to their parents, but they often have trouble showing affection or understanding a parent’s feelings.

The child may misinterpret facial expressions in others, such as a smile, grimace, or frown. When the autistic child can’t decide what another person wants, it can be confusing and frightening. For instance, a child of five years of age understands that others don’t always share the same feelings that they do. The autistic child is often not able to comprehend this, so they can’t understand why people do what they do. For example, if a parent is excited over a sporting event, and the autistic child doesn’t feel this excitement, he or she can’t quite grasp why the parent is screaming at the television. This can be very upsetting to the child. Children with autism spectrum disorders may have problems with their own emotions. Their behavior may seem immature for their age, and they may bang their heads on the wall or might be destructive when they are frustrated or upset.

As a child gets older, there are even more symptoms of autism. Children often have strange ways of communicating, or even a complete lack of communication. A child may not talk until he or she is seven or eight years old, or the child may never talk. Some children learn sign language or to use pictures to let others know their needs. Oddly, children who have mild symptoms of autism may have a very large vocabulary, but they don’t know how to carry on a conversation by listening, responding, and speaking.

Repetitive behaviors are another big indicator that autism is affecting a person. A child may want to learn only about electricity or ocean animals and show no interest in anything else. This person may flap his or her arms and do other strange physical movements as well. Any change in the child’s daily routine can be very upsetting, such as eating a meal at a different time or not going to school on a certain day.