Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that affects behavior and communication. Although it can happen at any age, it’s commonly diagnosed in children ages 5 to 9 years old.
It is called a spectrum disorder because there is a wide variety in terms of the different types and severity of symptoms that can occur. It’s a condition that knows no racial, ethnic or economic boundaries. It impacts thousands of people, their families and friends every day.
Here are the most common symptoms noticed in children with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Lack of Involvement with Peers
Children with this disorder typically have a hard time interacting with others their own age. You will generally notice that they prefer to talk or play with adults or younger children.
Spends Most of Their Time Alone
They have a hard time making friends, so you may find that your child has only a few friends, if any at all.
When they are around other children or people, they will tend to keep to themselves and not interact or engage in the activities, conversations, or participate.
Interactions and Reactions May Be Inappropriate
Children on the spectrum have difficulty reading and understanding body language, social norms, and indirect language. They may also have less control over their emotions and impulses.
This can result in their words or behavior being interpreted as rude or inappropriate. For example, a peer is badly injured, but the autistic child may laugh, or the autistic child meets someone new but does not greet them or pays them little attention.
Difficulty Empathizing with Others
Empathizing is often difficult for autistic children because they are unable to view or experience the world in the same way as others. What may bother someone may not bother the autistic individual in the same way, and so they may not be able to understand the person’s discomfort or experience.
Unfortunately, this is generally not understood by most people and they see the autistic individual as being cold, selfish, or unfriendly.
They Talk About Themselves A Lot
If a child with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder is engaged in conversation, they will typically talk about themselves and their interests at great length, without inquiring about the other person.
This is typically due to them not being aware of it being an issue, but also a lack of knowing how to steer the conversation towards the other person.
Instead of giving the other person a chance to speak or change the subject, they may talk excessively, turning what should have been a back and forth conversation into one long monologue.
Difficulty Reading and Expressing Body Language
Much of the way we communicate is through body language and facial expressions. A child with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder will show difficulty in reading these visual cues.
They will generally struggle to know if or when someone is serious or joking, when someone is interested in talking with them or no longer engaged. This can lead to misunderstandings and other difficulties in forming connections and relationships with others.
Avoids Eye Contact
If your child has Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, you may notice that they avoid eye contact. Eye contact often makes them feel uncomfortable and intimidated, so if someone catches their gaze, they quickly look away, keep their head down, or stare off in some other direction.
Monotone Speech and Neutral Expressions
Many children on the spectrum can smile and make various facial expressions, but they typically do so less than normal or may appear sad even if they are not. The reason for this is that they are generally unaware of the expression they are making or how people interpret it.
When they talk, they may speak in a monotone voice as it may be difficult and unnatural to them to speak with varying tones and inflections.
Average to Above Average Intelligence
Most children with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder have average to above average intelligence. However, they may experience difficulty with reading, writing, or math. Which they struggle and excel at can vary, as it depends on how their mind processes information.
Many children on the spectrum have an ability to memorize lists, perform calculations quickly, demonstrate superior grammar skills and extensive vocabularies – but these abilities are generally centered around things that greatly interest them. For example, a child that loves trains may be able to recite numerous facts, years, and other details about them.
Doesn’t Understand Jokes and Non-literal Language
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder are often perplexed by jokes, sarcasm, common expressions, and other forms of non-literal language.
They tend to take things literally by default, so when something does not, it can cause them to feel confused, anxious, upset, or even fearful. For example, if they heard the expression “kick the bucket” they think of someone literally kicking a bucket.
Doesn’t Like Change
Children on the spectrum have a hard time dealing with change. They have routines and rituals that they do each day and if something unexpected interrupts that routine, they can become very upset or angry.
Difficulty Controlling Emotions
Being the parent of a child with autism can be extremely challenging. Children on the spectrum can have meltdowns that result in very loud and disruptive episodes of crying, shouting, and tantrums. Some children will throw themselves on the floor, hurt themselves intentionally, or behave violently.
Such an episode, often leads a parent to react by yelling, scolding, or spanking the child. Unfortunately, this usually makes matters worse and damages their relationship with the child. Children on the spectrum do not interpret or react the same way to spanking or other punishments as other children.
If your child is on the spectrum, you may notice that they become upset easily and may not be able to explain why. They may not know the reason or they may not know how to communicate it. They are often uncertain how to explain or define their emotions, and they may not even understand them.
Uncoordinated, Clumsy, and Awkward Movements
Children on the spectrum often express some physical symptoms and behaviors. They may fall or bump into things a lot, drop things, knock things over, or have trouble balancing or jumping.
Many children also have stimming behaviors – repetitive movements that provide them with comfort. You may notice your child engages in hand flapping, rocking, leg bouncing, or other behaviors often.
Sensory Processing Issues
It is not uncommon for children on the spectrum to experience issues with lights, sounds, touch, smells, and tastes. They are generally more sensitive to one or more of these things than normal.
The majority of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are very selective in what they eat. The taste, smell, and texture of certain foods can bother them to such an extent that they are unable to tolerate eating it.
Some may experience headaches or discomfort from certain lighting. They may be greatly bothered by sunlight or fluorescent lights. They may express great discomfort with being touched or they may be sensitive to the feel of their clothes.
Those with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder will often show an intense interest in certain topics.
They will study it to such an extent that they can speak about it with authority and confidence, acting like a “little professor” as they instruct anyone who will listen about all the details that fascinate them.