The 3 Main Symptoms of Autism

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, as it is more commonly referred to today, is a neurological condition which affects an individual’s emotional and social development. Individuals with autism may struggle to communicate effectively and find it difficult to develop relationships, even with close caregivers. 

There is currently no known cause for autism – it is believed that a number of factors, both external and internal, may be responsible for causing it. This includes possible genetic and environmental causes. 

Autism is now recognized as a spectrum disorder. This means that an individual may be diagnosed at any point on the spectrum. Generally this means their symptoms may range from mild to severe, depending on where an individual is diagnosed on the spectrum. 

However the main signs of autism in children remain the same between individuals – the extent and severity of the symptoms just vary between individuals. So, for example, if limited social skills is one of the recognized signs of autism, this will affect all individuals with the condition but the extent to which it affects their social development will depend on where on the spectrum they are diagnosed.

The 3 main symptoms of autism

  1. Limited or delayed social skills

      Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder struggle with their social skills development. This can look like many different things – it can be a child who chooses to play alone all of the time and resists shared or collective play, it can be someone who struggles to form relationships with others or who shows no interest in building relationships with their peers.

It can also present as an inability to know how to form and maintain relationships with others, including many of the recognized and accepted social skills and behaviors that make it possible. For example, not understanding how sharing or taking turns works (in older children who developmentally would be expected to be able to understand these social behaviors). 

  1. Communication delay and issues

One of the 3 main symptoms of autism is an issue with communication. This may include speech delay, but it may also include issues expressing and communicating non-verbally as well. Individuals with autism may not know how to use facial cues to communicate, and they may not show an interest in communicating with others, again either verbally or nonverbally. Individuals with autism may struggle to express themselves, to have themselves understood, and they may show limited ability to understand how others are choosing to communicate. 

  1. Unique behaviors

There are many different behaviors that may come under the definition of unique behaviors, as one of the 3 main symptoms of autism. These might include repetitive behaviors, or tics. Examples include repetitive movement of a particular body part. Other unique behaviors may include an obsession or intense interest in a particular subject, or object. It may also include an inability to respond to change, however small, especially when it comes to a change in routine or a set way of doing things. 

Autism and rare disease

Sometimes, alongside the 3 main symptoms of autism, individuals may also show further signs or symptoms of a rare disease. This is because autism or autistic-like behaviors are features of some rare diseases or genetic disorders. If this is the case, the first step should be to contact a genetic counselor, to understand if there is a need for a genetic diagnosis or simply an autism diagnosis. 


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