What are the Symptoms of Autism? – Autism Signs & Traits

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is marked by difficulties with social communication and interaction skills. It also includes restricted and repetitive behaviors.1 Each person with autism might experience these symptoms differently. But, doctors often check for these issues when diagnosing autism. They also consider how much support the person needs every day. This ranges from needing just a little support to needing very substantial support.1 Still, not everyone with ASD will show these exact signs. And, people without ASD can sometimes have similar traits.1

Key Takeaways

  • Autism is characterized by challenges with social communication/interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors.
  • Symptom severity is rated based on the level of daily support required, from level 1 to level 3.
  • Autism can present differently in each person, and some non-autistic individuals may exhibit similar signs.
  • Understanding the diverse range of autism traits is crucial for awareness and support.
  • Early recognition of signs and seeking professional evaluation are important for accessing resources.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Social Communication and Interaction Challenges

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face social challenges. They may find it hard to talk with others and understand feelings. This can make simple things like starting a conversation or sharing emotions tough.2 They might also struggle with eye contact and reading facial expressions. This makes them find it difficult to connect with others.

Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors

A core symptom of autism is repeating actions or words and sticking to strict routines. This might mean doing the same things over and over or preferring certain topics a lot. They could also have strong reactions to changes in their routines.2 For example, they might like to line up their toys a certain way. They can also repeat things they’ve heard, like phrases, or focus too much on small parts of objects.2

Autism symptoms really affect how people communicate and connect with others. It’s important to know that these challenges come in many forms. This helps us provide the right help and support.2

Early Signs of Autism

Children under 12 months with autism might not babble much or at all3. They might avoid eye contact3 too. They usually find objects more interesting than people3. They might also seem like they don’t hear well3.

Between 12 and 24 months, more signs could show. Examples are a deep focus on a single subject, little interest in playing with other kids, and self-isolating behaviors. They might talk in repetitive ways and have trouble socializing normaly3.

autism developmental delays

Little or No Babbling

Most kids with autism face challenges in paying attention together with others4. They often lag behind in social communication skills at all joint attention stages4.

Lack of Eye Contact

Not making eye contact can be a sign of autism, along with not reacting to their name5.

More Interest in Objects than People

If a child shows a strong attachment to certain objects, it might be a warning sign of autism3. They may not play with toys like most kids do3.

Appearing Not to Hear When Spoken To

Kids at risk for autism could have unusual responses to sounds or textures3. Also, their voice might sound flat, without the usual changes in pitch or volume3.

Signs of Autism in Adults

Autism isn’t only for kids; adults can show its signs too.6 Some adults with autism weren’t diagnosed when they were young, even with clear symptoms.6 It’s important to spot autism signs in adults. This helps them get the help and resources they need.

Difficulty Understanding Others’ Thoughts and Feelings

Adults with autism might not get how others think and feel.6 They find it hard to pick up on social clues or share the feelings of others. This makes recognizing peer’s emotions tough for them.

Anxiety in Social Situations

Social situations can be very stressful for autistic adults.6 They often worry about following social rules and feel awkward around others. This can make it hard for them to relax and interact with people.

Trouble Making Friends

Making friends is not easy for many autistic adults.6 They might choose to be by themselves. Or they find it hard to start or keep a conversation. Sometimes, they can seem like they don’t care, which is often not the case.

Bluntness or Appearing Rude Unintentionally

By accident, autistic adults may come off as rude or uncaring.6 They can have a tough time with social rules, causing these missteps. Understanding and patience are crucial in such cases.

Autistic adults might take things too literally or do the same things every day.6 They can get very worried if their routine changes. Also, they might not catch on to subtle social expectations, like not talking over others. Knowing about these behaviors can help adults with autism and those close to them find the right help.

Autism Signs in Women and Girls

Autism might look different in women than in men. Girls with autism often learn to hide it to fit in.7 They may seem quieter and keep their feelings to themselves. This can make it hard for others to know they have autism.7 Girls and women with autism might not show as many repetitive actions as boys and men do.7

Learned to Hide Autism Signs

Women with autism might hide its signs better than men.7 This can lead to late or missed diagnoses. Doctors might miss spotting autism in girls because they look at information mostly from studying boys.7

Quieter and Hiding Feelings

Autistic women and girls might keep quiet about their emotions.7 They might not show the obvious signs of autism that boys often do.7

Appearing to Cope Better Socially

Girls with autism can seem to handle social situations better.7 People might not realize they’re different from boys with autism.7 Their behaviors, like being quiet, may not raise concerns because they’re seen as normal for girls. But if boys showed these behaviors, people might think it’s a sign of autism.7

Autism in women and girls is often hard to see because it looks different.8 Knowing these differences is key to finding autism early in girls. This can help them get the support they need.7

autism in women and girls

Repetitive Behaviors and Routines

Restricted and repetitive behaviors are key in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).9 They include a need for sameness, following routines, and doing the same movements or saying the same things over and over.9 It’s important to know about these behaviors to help those with autism.

Insistence on Sameness and Routines

Autism often involves a strong desire for sameness and strict routines.9 Changes, even small ones, can really upset someone with autism. They might want their life to follow a certain pattern every day.10 This makes it hard for them to handle new situations or sudden changes.

Repetitive Movements or Speech Patterns

“Stimming” is a common repetitive behavior in autism.10 It includes things like hand-flapping, playing with objects, or turning switches on and off.10 Autistic people might also repeat words or phrases.10 They do these actions to feel better or to calm themselves down.

Ritualistic Behaviors

Some people with autism have rituals, like watching the same videos or touching things in a specific order, that they must do over and over.10 These rituals can become very important to them, and not being able to do them can cause a lot of stress.10 They might also affect how a person interacts with others and limit what they can learn.

It’s vital to spot the different kinds of repetitive behaviors in autism and understand them.10 While some may not be harmful, others can affect daily life, emotional well-being, and safety.10 ABA therapy, a personalized method, can help manage these behaviors.10

Intense Interests and Sensory Issues

People with autism often focus intently on specific, narrow topics.11 They might really love one object, like a toy or figurine.11 Autism can cause sensitivity differences to light, sound, touch, or texture.11 Also, people with autism might seek certain sensory experiences, like smelling things or being drawn to lights.11

Highly Focused Interests

Folks on the autism spectrum often get super into certain subjects.11 They could know a lot about things like dinosaurs, trains, or computer programming.11 This interest becomes a big part of their lives and how they learn and have fun.

Strong Attachment to Objects

Alongside intense interests, they often bond with specific objects.11 Items like a special toy or figurine can bring comfort and a feeling of stability.11 They might use these objects as a calming tool or to help them understand daily life.

Sensory Sensitivities or Seeking Behaviors

Autism leads to different ways of dealing with sensory information.11 Some may react strongly to too much noise, light, or rough textures.11 This can make crowded places hard to handle and cause a lot of anxiety.11

On the other hand, some might not notice these things and struggle to fit in.11 They might seek certain sensory experiences, like clicking pens, touching fabrics, or watching spinning objects.11

Supporting Autism and Sensory Needs

It’s crucial to meet the unique sensory needs of people with autism.11 Getting advice from behavior or occupational therapists is helpful.11 They can suggest ways to cope with sensory challenges and create plans that work for each person.11

Other Autism Characteristics

Autistic people might have other unique traits in addition to the main symptoms.5 They could use methods like pointing at pictures or typing to communicate.5 Many also find it hard to plan tasks, handle many tasks at once, and make choices.5

Nonverbal Communication

Some autistic people don’t use spoken language to share their thoughts.5 They might use technology to write what they want to say, or use pictures to express themselves.5 Or, they may show their feelings through movement and actions.5

Executive Functioning Difficulties

Many individuals with autism find it challenging to manage their time or solve problems.5 They may find complex tasks and making decisions hard.5 Switching between activities can also be tough for them.5

Fine Motor Skill Challenges

Tasks needing fine motor skills, like writing or using utensils, can be hard for some autistics.1 This makes certain everyday activities difficult to perform.1

Need for Daily Living Support

Autistic individuals’ support needs can vary greatly.1 Some need help with self-care or handling social settings.5 They might struggle to express or regulate their emotions, leading to behaviors like meltdowns or shutdowns.1

Masking Autism Symptoms

Some autistic people, especially women and girls, hide their12 autism signs. They do this to fit in or meet what society expects. This is known as masking.13 Masking could be acting like everything is okay in loud environments or making sure to look people in the eye when talking.12 Studies tell us that girls and women with autism do this more. It can also bring on mental health problems.

13 When someone is autistic masking, they hide certain traits to match what is seen as normal. They do this to avoid negative reactions.13 Over time, this can make them feel more anxious, tired, and stressed. It can be hard for them to form true bonds with others, while they might also lose track of who they really are.

13 Adjusting behavior to fit in can be tough, always worrying about how you seem. It takes a big toll on both mind and heart.13 Signs can include not showing stimming action, copying what others do, sticking to scripts in talks, controlling eye contact, and hiding unique interests. They might even try too hard in social settings and then feel really tired from it all.

12 Many Autistic adults, especially those who are pretty smart, often do autism masking.12 This happens a lot with women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color), and genderqueer individuals.

12 Girls and women are under a lot of pressure to fit in socially. So, they often use autistic masking. This includes those from BIPOC and Trans communities. They might change how they act to deal with what society expects.

14 There’s a lot of work involved for young adults with autism to seem ‘normal’. This is according to a research in Autism Research.14 A big number, 87%, of autistic women in mental health care have been wrongly diagnosed. This was found in a study in Autism in Adulthood.

14 A big part, 65%, of autistic adults feel very isolated.14 Normally, autism is diagnosed around 4.3 years in the U.S. But, masking might delay getting this important diagnosis for a long time. This info comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

14 A study by the National Autistic Society found that 45% of autistic adults have signs of being depressed.

13 It’s very important for those who mask to get help from mental health pros and support from the autism community.13 Making society more accepting of autism helps reduce the push for autistic folks to always try to fit in. This can make a big difference in their mental health and life satisfaction.

Getting an Autism Assessment

Seeing signs of autism in you or someone else means talking to a healthcare provider is crucial.15 The American Psychiatric Association updated the DSM-5 in 2013. It describes the key diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), focusing on social communication and interaction deficits.15 By 2022, a new version called the DSM-5-TR was released, with slightly clearer criteria for diagnosing autism.15

Recognizing Signs and Seeking Evaluation

When getting assessed, sharing photos, logs, or videos can aid the provider in understanding behavior and growth.16 The AAP recommends including autism screenings in the regular checkups for children at 18 and 24 months.16 The NCBDD suggests these screenings happen at 9, 18 and either 24 or 30 months.16 If autism is suspected, the provider might send the person to experts for in-depth evaluation and testing.17

Providing Observation Logs and Video Recordings

17 The M-CHAT acts as a questionnaire to spot potential autism, though it’s not foolproof.17 The STAT goes deeper, looking closely at behaviors that might indicate autism.17 Shockingly, 21% of kids with ADHD alone, but not autism, met autism criteria by ADOS standards.17 The ADI-R takes a long time – two hours – to assess.17 Details about early development help in this part of the process as symptoms are often clearer early in life.17 Testing cognitive skills, like thinking and problem-solving, is also part of a proper assessment.17 Diagnosis should come from someone skilled and experienced, familiar with many conditions.17

The Diagnostic Process

Diagnosing is not as simple as a medical test. Healthcare pros do a deep assessment. They look at how people think, talk, make friends, grow, and their interests.18 This team may include doctors, psychologists, therapists, and speech experts.18 They also check for other issues that might play a part.19

Comprehensive Assessments by Specialists

Pros use the DSM-5 to figure out .18 They give detailed checks on how behavior and skills develop. It’s said that kids should be diagnosed by age 2.19 Before a detailed check, all kids get a basic look during routine visits. For those showing differences, they do a more serious test with a special ASD team.19

Screening for Co-occurring Conditions

Telling apart from other issues in adults is tougher, as their symptoms might seem like other disorders. This needs a detailed evaluation by a pro in ASD.19 A proper diagnosis in adults helps understand hard times, spot strengths, and find good support.19

Using the DSM-5 Criteria

Per the DSM-5, people with battle in talking and dealing with others, have strict interests, repeat actions, and these affect their daily life.19 A kid must fit these DSM-5 rules to truly have .18 The two big areas looked at are the challenges in chatting and making friends, and the strict and repetitive actions. These are key in seeing if a child has .18

Autism Spectrum Disorder Severity Levels

Experts diagnose autism based on how much the person’s behaviors and communication are affected.20 The DSM-5 says there are three levels: 1, 2, and 3.20 These show how much help the person might need.20

Severity goes from needing less support at level 1 to a lot of help at level 3.21 It’s about deciding the right support for each person.21

At level 1, individuals might find socializing hard but don’t need too much help.20 Level 2 makes it harder for people to hide their autism. They also struggle more with talking and fixed behaviors.20 Then, at level 3, help is critical since these individuals have serious problems with communication and routines.20

The DSM-5 brought in these three categories to describe how much support someone might need due to autism.21 At each level, there are different but specific challenges.21 For instance, social skills are hard for all levels but get even tougher at higher levels.21 This guide helps ensure the right kind of care is given.21

They look at how someone with autism struggles with socializing and their behaviors. Then they decide on a support level.21 Each level comes with its own set of issues, like not dealing well with changes or struggling to plan things.21

At level 3, there are added risks of being mistreated.20 The DSM-4 saw autism differently, with five types, not three levels.20 The three levels now make it clearer how to support someone with autism.20 Still, these levels don’t show everything about every autistic person.20

Everyone with autism is different. Their needs and challenges vary, and levels can’t capture it all.20

The DSM-5 is key in diagnosing autism. It helps figure out support based on how autism affects someone.20

Autism Signs and Age

The first signs of autism appear differently and at various times.22 Some children might show these signs by their first birthday. For others, these signs might not show up until they are 2 or older.22 It’s important to know that autism signs can come at different ages. Early spotting and getting help matter a lot.

Signs Up to 12 Months

By 12 months, some babies might not talk much or make eye contact. They might like playing with objects more than with people. And, they could seem not to hear you when you talk to them. These early signs could point to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Signs Up to 2 Years

By the time a child turns 2, more signs might show, like being very focused on one thing. They might not care much about other kids, have behavior problems, or repeat words. It’s advised to check for autism at 18 and 24 months, and also have regular checks at 9, 18, and 30 months.22

Signs at Any Age

A baby or older child might still show signs of autism at any time. They could avoid eye contact, have strong reactions to sounds or sights, like only certain topics, do the same things over and over, or not talk on time. Some studies say by age 2, a doctor’s ASD diagnosis is very reliable.22 Starting therapy early, especially focused on behavior, can do a lot to help with learning, talking, and making friends in young children with autism.22

Support and Resources for Autism

Many support services are ready to help those with autism and their families. These are found everywhere, from local programs to big national groups. They focus on helping with challenges and making life better.

Local Support Services

Locally, you can find help from doctors, therapists, and community programs. They offer special therapies, support groups, and care breaks. They also help with school and social needs.

National Autism Organizations

National groups like Autism Speaks have a lot of info and support.23 They make education materials, hold events, and push for better laws. They also help fund research to understand autism more.23

Online Communities and Forums

Don’t forget online groups and forums for more help and info. These websites let people and families meet and share stories. They also give tips and build a community.

Thanks to all these services, individuals with autism and their families can find the help they need. Whether it’s local clinics, big advocacy groups, or online friends, support is out there. And it’s key to making life better.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has two main symptoms. These include social communication and interaction issues, as well as the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. These symptoms vary from person to person and can show up differently in children, adults, and varied genders. It’s very important to spot the signs early, get a professional’s view, and find the right support.24 This helps those with autism and their families a lot. Understanding the wide range of traits in autism is key. It can lead to better awareness, acceptance, and support for the autistic community.

About 1 out of every 44 8-year-old children is affected by autism.24 Boys and those assigned male at birth (AMAB) are over four times as likely to have autism as girls and children assigned female at birth (AFAB).24 Signs of autism often appear between 1.5 and 3 years of age.24 The term ASD covers many conditions like autism, Asperger’s, and PDD-NOS.24

It’s crucial to understand the complexity of autism and support the varied needs of those with ASD. Knowing about the symptoms, causes, and resources can help us build a society that is more inclusive and welcoming for everyone, including individuals with autism and their families.


What are the two core symptoms of autism?

Autism shows up in two main ways. First, people may find it hard to chat and connect with others. Second, they might do the same things over and over again.

What are the social communication and interaction challenges in autism?

Challenges in talking and being with others are common. For example, they may struggle to start or keep a conversation going. They might not share their feelings or understand what someone else feels.Looking people in the eye can be tough. So is getting what others mean from their face or body. They may have a hard time showing how they feel or making friends.

What are the restricted and repetitive behaviors in autism?

People with autism might do the same things a lot. This can be in their actions, the way they play, or what they say. They might really need things to always be the same.Having strong interests that they focus on intensely is also common. And sometimes sounds, sights, or feelings can bother them more, or they might seek them out.

What are some early signs of autism in young children?

Autism can show very early, even in the first year. Signs might include not talking much or avoiding eye contact. They may seem more into stuff than people, or not react when called directly.By their second year, signs could be more noticeable. This might be a strong interest in something, not playing with other kids much, or repeating words without getting what they mean.

What are some signs of autism in adults?

In adults, signs can be different but still there. They might not pick up on others’ feelings well or find social situations really tough. They could seem overly blunt or not very interested in others, not on purpose though.Sticking to daily routines, being very literal, and getting stressed if things change are common too. They may not get social behaviors, like when it’s their turn to speak.

How do autism signs differ in women and girls?

Women with autism can sometimes hide their signs better. They might just copy how others act. Often, they can look like they handle social stuff well, making it hard to spot autism in them.They might not show the usual signs that someone with autism is usually known for. This makes it challenging to see they have the condition.

What are some examples of repetitive behaviors in autism?

Wanting things to be the same all the time is a common behavior. So is needing a daily schedule that doesn’t change. Certain movements, certain ways of speaking, or watching the same videos repeatedly can also happen.This type of behavior can help them deal with their emotions. It can also give them a sense of safety and security.

What are some examples of intense interests and sensory issues in autism?

People with autism may get super focused on certain things. They might really attach to an object, like a toy. Differences in how they feel touch, see, or hear the world is another common trait.This can mean they react strongly to lights, sounds, or textures. or they might not notice some pains or temperatures well. Eye-catching movements, like flickering lights, could draw them in.

What are some other characteristics of autism?

Besides the core symptoms, there are other aspects to autism. People might not speak but communicate in other ways. Planning things or doing more than one task at a time can be hard for them.Physically, they might have trouble with fine motor skills. Living skills might also need more support. Regulating emotions may be a challenge, sometimes leading to harmful actions or situations when too much to handle.

What is masking or camouflaging in autism?

In the case of some, mainly girls and women, they might hide their autism. They try to act just like everyone else. This is known as masking, and it can be stressful.It can lead to problems with mental health. Masking can make it difficult for others to realize they have autism.

How do you get an autism assessment?

If you see autism signs or have concerns, talking to a healthcare provider is key. They might ask for things like photos or logs to understand the situation better. Then, they could refer you to specialists for more checks.These additional tests aim to figure out if someone really has autism. Getting an early check is crucial for better outcomes.

How is autism spectrum disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosing autism isn’t just a quick test. It takes a full look at the person’s skills and behaviors. A team of experts, including doctors and psychologists, do this. They follow a guide called the DSM-5 to decide if autism fits.This process also checks for any other health issues that could be playing a part. It’s a thorough evaluation of all aspects related to autism.

How are the severity levels of autism determined?

Autism can affect people in different ways. This is why there are different levels of support needed. It ranges from needing some help now and then to needing a lot of support every day.These levels are a guide for how much someone needs help. They’re based on how much the autism affects daily life.

When can the first signs of autism appear?

The start and course of autism signs are not the same for everyone. For some, signs are clear pretty early, even before a year old. This can show in how they talk, look, and behave.Others might not show these signs until a bit later. By age two, some clear behaviors might tip off caregivers. These can range from avoiding eye contact to focussing on very specific things only.All in all, autism can sometimes be tricky to spot early on. Signs could pop up anytime, and they might not always be the same for everyone.

What kind of support and resources are available for individuals with autism?

There is a wide range of support available for those with autism and their families. Local services, like therapists, can offer help. Big autism groups, like Autism Speaks, share lots of useful info. And, online networks are there for support and knowledge swapping.

Source Links

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  14. https://www.abtaba.com/blog/autism-masking
  15. https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-diagnostic-criteria-dsm-5
  16. https://autism.org/screening-assessment/
  17. https://childmind.org/article/what-should-evaluation-autism-look-like/
  18. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/how-do-doctors-diagnose-autism
  19. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd
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