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What are the 3 main symptoms of Autism

Published on 9th June 2023

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Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact socially with other people. It is estimated that around 1 in 54 children in the US are diagnosed with autism, making it more common than diabetes, cancer, and AIDS combined.

 

When it comes to autism, there are three main symptoms that are generally seen in those who are affected. These are difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges. This article will provide an overview of these three main symptoms of autism, as well as detailing some of the specific issues associated with them.

 

Social interaction difficulties are a hallmark symptom of autism. People with autism often have difficulty recognizing or identifying facial expressions and identifying emotions from others. This difficulty in understanding the emotions of others can make it difficult for people with autism to connect with people and build relationships.

 

In addition, people with autism may also struggle with nonverbal communication. This can include difficulty understanding body language, facial expressions, and other subtle visual cues that are used in social situations. This can lead to difficulty in understanding the social cues of others, making it hard to interact in social situations.

 

Another main symptom of autism is repetitive behaviors. People with autism often engage in behaviors that are repetitive in nature, such as having rigid routines and exhibiting unusual interests. These behaviors can be comforting and provide a sense of security to those with autism, but can also be disruptive when they interfere with daily activities.

 

Finally, people with autism often have communication challenges. This can include difficulty understanding language, speaking in a proper manner, having difficulty understanding the meaning of words, and having difficulty making sense of conversations. People with autism may also have difficulties with pragmatic languages, such as understanding sarcasm or making jokes.

 

These are the three main symptoms of autism, and they can often be identified through diagnostic criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). In order to diagnose autism, medical professionals use a variety of assessments to evaluate the severity of the symptoms and help develop an appropriate treatment plan.

 

In this article, we will take a closer look at each of these three main symptoms of autism, as well as provide some tips for recognizing them and seeking treatment for those affected.

 

Social Interaction Difficulties

 

Individuals with autism may struggle with social interaction. They may have difficulty understanding how to interact with others appropriately and may not understand social cues and body language. This can cause them to have difficulty making and sustaining friendships, as well as difficulty connecting with others.

 

People with autism may have difficulty engaging in reciprocal conversations. They may not understand the give and take of normal conversations and may not be able to determine when it is their turn to talk or respond. They may also find it difficult to understand and express their emotions and may not be able to recognize the emotions in others. This can lead to difficulty forming relationships and understanding the feelings of those around them.

 

Those with autism may also find it difficult to make eye contact and may avoid looking directly at someone when they are speaking. This can lead to difficulty communicating and can give the impression that the individual is not paying attention. Additionally, people with autism may not be able to recognize nonverbal communication such as facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice. This can lead to misunderstandings as they are not able to interpret the nonverbal cues of those around them.

 

Individuals with autism may also have difficulty understanding humor or sarcasm and may take comments literally. This can lead to difficulty understanding the context of conversations and making jokes or engaging in small talk. Those with autism may also find it difficult to engage in conversation with others and may not be able to sustain conversations for long periods of time.

 

People with autism may also struggle with initiating conversations. They may not know how to start a conversation or how to keep it going, leading to difficulty making and sustaining friendships. They may also find it difficult to understand when conversations are over and misinterpret social cues that signify that the conversation is coming to an end.

 

Repetitive Behaviors

 

Repetitive behaviors are common among individuals with autism. These behaviors include rituals, repetitive movements, and rigid routines. They may look different from individual to individual, yet they are all typically associated with autism.

 

Rituals are often seen as part of a person's daily routine. They may involve specific behaviors that must be done in a certain order or a certain number of times. For example, a person may have a bedtime ritual that involves brushing their teeth, then taking a shower, and then reading a book in bed. These rituals are often rigid and cannot be changed or adapted.

 

Repetitive movements are another type of behavior that may be seen in individuals with autism. This includes things like hand or finger flapping, rocking or pacing, and other repetitive motions. These movements can be calming and soothing for the person, but may be confusing to those around them.

 

Rigid routines are also common in people with autism. They may have specific expectations about how their day is supposed to go and may become very upset when their routine is disrupted. They may also have a hard time transitioning from one activity to another or may become overwhelmed by changes.

 

It is important to remember that not all repetitive behaviors are necessarily harmful or disruptive. For some people with autism, these routines and rituals may provide comfort and security. It is important to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional to determine if the behavior is disruptive or problematic.

 

In some cases, repetitive behaviors can become a problem if they interfere with everyday functioning. For example, if the behavior is so frequent and intense that it takes up a large part of the day or interferes with the individual's ability to focus or interact with others, it may be necessary to seek professional help.

 

Behavioral therapies can be helpful in reducing disruptive behaviors and can help people with autism find more appropriate ways to channel their energy. Occupational therapy can also be helpful for people with autism, as it can help them become more independent and learn to better manage their emotions.

 

It is important to remember that repetitive behaviors are common in people with autism and can be managed with the right tools and resources. If you or someone you know is exhibiting repetitive behaviors, it is important to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional to find the best treatment plan.

 

Communication Challenges

 

Communication challenges are one of the hallmark symptoms of autism. People with autism may have difficulty communicating with other people in a variety of ways. Speech and language delay, difficulty understanding language, and issues with pragmatic language are all common communication challenges associated with autism.

 

Speech and Language Delay

 

Speech and language delays are very common in individuals with autism. People with autism may have difficulty with the production of language, and may speak in a monotone or in a flat affect. They may also use incorrect grammar, and have difficulty expressing themselves. They may also have difficulty understanding language, and may not respond to verbal instructions.

 

Difficulty Understanding Language

 

People with autism may have difficulty understanding language. They may not understand what is being said to them, or may be unable to understand the nuances of language, such as sarcasm or jokes. They may also struggle to comprehend the meaning of words and may have difficulty understanding abstract concepts.

 

Issues with Pragmatic Language

 

People with autism may also have difficulty with pragmatic language. Pragmatic language includes the ability to understand and use non-literal language and social cues in conversation. People with autism may struggle to interact socially and may have difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations. They may also have difficulty interpreting facial expressions or body language, and may not understand social cues.

 

Diagnosis of communication challenges is best done by a qualified medical professional. Professionals can assess for communication delays and recommend strategies for helping people with autism to communicate more effectively. Speech-language pathologists may also be able to provide recommendations or treatment for communication difficulties.

 

Communication challenges are an important symptom to consider when diagnosing autism. Speech and language delays, difficulty understanding language, and issues with pragmatic language are all common in individuals with autism. It is important to be aware of these challenges and to work with a qualified professional to develop strategies to help people with autism to communicate more effectively.

 

Diagnostic Criteria

 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the go-to resource for medical professionals to diagnose autism. According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of autism is given when a person displays “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts,” as well as “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.”

 

In order to diagnose autism, medical professionals must assess the person for any symptoms from the two categories: social communication and social interaction difficulties or repetitive behaviors.

 

When assessing a person for social communication and social interaction difficulties, clinicians look for the following criteria:

 

Social Interaction Difficulties: A person with autism may have difficulty understanding social cues and engaging in appropriate social behavior. They may also have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships with others.

 

Ability to Detect Emotions: People with autism may have difficulty recognizing the emotions of others and may not be able to accurately interpret facial expressions.

 

Issues with Nonverbal Communication: Those with autism may have difficulty understanding the nuances of nonverbal communication such as body language and gestures.

 

Difficulty with Conversation: A person with autism may have difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations or displaying interest in a topic.

 

When assessing a person for repetitive behaviors, clinicians look for the following criteria:

 

Repetitive Behaviors: People with autism often engage in behaviors such as rocking, twirling, or repeating certain words or phrases.

 

Rigid Routines: Those with autism may adhere to strict routines or rituals and have difficulty shifting activities or adapting to changes in routine.

 

Unusual Interests: People with autism may become fixated on certain topics or activities such as a particular TV show or type of puzzle.

 

Repetitive Movements: A person with autism may engage in repetitive movements such as hand flapping or spinning.

 

Finally, when assessing communication challenges, clinicians look for the following criteria:

 

Speech and Language Delay: People with autism may have difficulty in developing speech and language. They may also use language in an unusual way, such as repeating phrases or using a robotic or monotone voice.

 

Difficulty Understanding Language: Those with autism may have difficulty understanding language, particularly figurative language and jokes.

 

Issues with Pragmatic Language: People with autism may have difficulty understanding the context of conversations and may struggle to understand the subtle cues of conversation.

 

In order for a diagnosis to be given, a person must display symptoms in two of the three categories listed above. Medical professionals often use other diagnostic tools such as questionnaires to help in diagnosing a person with autism. It is important to note that autism is a spectrum disorder and the degree and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.

 

In conclusion, the DSM-5 provides medical professionals with guidelines to diagnose autism by assessing a person for the three main symptoms: social communication and social interaction difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges. These criteria help to determine if an individual is on the autism spectrum and can allow for early intervention and treatment plans for those with autism.

 

Conclusion

 

As we have seen, autism is a neurological disorder that presents with a range of symptoms. The three main symptoms of autism are difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges.

 

Social interaction difficulties typically present as a lack of interest in socialization, difficulty understanding and responding to facial expressions and emotions, issues with nonverbal communication, and difficulty with conversation.

 

Repetitive behaviors are characterized by rigid routines, unusual interests, and repetitive movements. People with autism may become fixated on certain activities and objects, and prefer to stick to a set schedule.

 

Communication challenges manifest as speech and language delays, difficulty understanding language, and issues with pragmatic language. Diagnosis of autism is based on the criteria set forth in the DSM-5, and should be conducted by a qualified medical professional.

 

In summary, the three main symptoms of autism are difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges. It is important for individuals with autism to receive proper diagnosis and follow-up care in order to manage their symptoms and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.