Autism is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (APA, 1994). It is a spectrum disorder defined by symptoms appearing before the age of three. Being a spectrum disorder means that some children may be more affected with autism and some children may be less affected.
These symptoms reflect delayed or abnormal development in three areas. Below are some example of symptoms that some people with autism demonstrate (It is very important to remember that every child with autism is different and may demonstrate totally different symptoms):
Language Development: The child does not understand or verbalize many words, repeats things (“echoes”), or speaks in third person. The child may also speak in a rote way, ‘cartoon-like’ or with a foreign accent. The child may have difficulty initiating and sustaining a meaningful conversation.
Social Skills: The child may not be interested in peers, may show no imitative play, may have poor eye contact, may not respond when spoken to, and may not show or point to things. In addition, making age-appropriate friendships may be difficult and there may be observed a lack of social and emotional reciprocity.
Behavioral Repertoire: The child may have fixed routines, be intolerant of changes and transitions, tantrum, laugh out of context, demonstrate repetitive play, or engages in self-stimulatory actions such as verbal stimming, hand flapping, staring at their hands or fingers, tip-toeing, smelling things, etc.