The severity of symptoms varies greatly, but all people with autism have some core symptoms in the areas of:
- Social interactions and relationships. Symptoms may include:
- Significant problems developing nonverbal communication skills, such as eye-to-eye gazing, facial expressions and body posture.
- Failure to establish friendships with children the same age.
- Lack of interest in sharing enjoyment, interests or achievements with other people.
- Lack of empathy. People with autism may have difficulty understanding another person’s feelings, such as pain or sorrow.
- Verbal and nonverbal communication. Symptoms may include:
- Delay in, or lack of, learning to talk. As many as 40% of people with autism never speak.
- Problems taking steps to start a conversation. Also, people with autism have difficulties continuing a conversation after it has begun.
- Stereotyped and repetitive use of language. People with autism often repeat over and over a phrase they heard previously (echolalia).
- Difficulty understanding their listener’s perspective. For example, a person with autism may not understand that someone is using humor. They may interpret the communication word for word and fail to catch the implied meaning.
- Limited interests in activities or play. Symptoms may include:
- An unusual focus on pieces. Younger children with autism often focus on parts of toys, such as the wheels on a car, rather than playing with the entire toy.
- Preoccupation with certain topics. For example, older children and adults may be fascinated by video games, trading cards or license plates.
- A need for sameness and routines. For example, a child with autism may always need to eat bread before salad and insist on driving the same route every day to school.
- Stereotyped behaviors. These may include body rocking and hand flapping.