Autism can affect children and teens in several different ways. Signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. One common factor is that kids are different and have different influences. Common autism symptoms in kids and teens generally appear in three main development areas: behavior, language and social skills. Many symptoms are identified in the first three years of a child’s life. Because symptoms can vary so greatly from child to child, it can make diagnosis and eventual treatment more difficult. Here are some of the most common autism symptoms and possible causes.
For kids with autism, social skills and social interaction can be an issue at many different ages. Poor eye contact is almost always a common symptom. This can combine with appearing to not hear someone who speaks to them. Many kids with autism will resist some physical contact such as hugs or being cuddled. It can make them uncomfortable.
Other social issues can include the inability to create or establish friendships. Another way this can happen is the lack of interest in sharing enjoyment or accomplishments with their peers. Autism symptoms can reflect an inability to relate to other people’s feelings, making it even more difficult to develop relationships. So, many kids with autism often play alone. Because they don’t understand many social norms, they can have a hard time recognizing and understanding jokes or sarcasm. You also may notice that older kids will refrain from asking for help with things.
The lack of development in language skills can also be a big factor in autism symptoms. This usually presents itself in delayed speech for younger children. They often cannot understand simple commands or directions. While this can cause frustration, taking extra time to focus can help them understand. Also look for the loss of ability to speak words or sentences they previously could speak.
Part of language skills can include eye contact or recognizing facial expressions. Both can be issues with a child with autism. They tend to not pick up on subtitles in unspoken communication that are still important to overall development.
Listen for speaking in a rhythm or monotone voice. Another common sign is the inability to begin a conversation or the lack of interest in continuing a conversation.
Behavioral autism symptoms can be the most easily identifiable since they are so outward. Some of the most common include moving frequently, difficulty sitting still, and repetitive movements such as flapping arms or spinning around. Many kids with autism will develop routines that, if interrupted, can greatly disturb them.
Also, watch for a sensitivity to touch or certain sounds. They can focus intensely on specific details of an item or toy. Limited interest in a variety of food can also be a sign. For example, some kids may only want to eat food of a certain color. As kids get older, sleep problems and even depression can be present.