ASD is an umbrella term that includes a range of neurodevelopmental features. Autism is not a disease, but it can have a significant impact on a person’s life.
Its effects can vary widely. Some people will need lifelong support, while others can live and work independently.
In some cases, the features of the condition may be present from infancy. In others, the signs may become more obvious as the individual becomes older.
Parents or caregivers may notice that a young child:
- does not babble by the age of 12 months or produce words by 16 months
- does not respond when people talk to them but reacts to other sounds
- does not make eye contact
- lines up toys or objects excessively
- does not want to be cuddled
- does not play with others or play make-believe games
An older child may:
- have difficulty starting conversations
- have difficulty making friends and interacting with others
- use repetitive or atypical language
- be uncomfortable with changes to their routine
- be extremely passionate about specific topics or objects
ASD can affect a person’s way of perceiving the world. The person may be hypersensitive to some stimuli, such as light, sound, and taste, leading to the overstimulation of one or more senses. This is called sensory overload.
It can make everyday experiences, such as going to a shopping mall, confusing and overwhelming.
Other people may noticeTrusted Source that the person with ASD has:
- atypical speech patterns and tone of voice
- late development of speech skills
- difficulty maintaining or responding to conversation
- limited eye contact
- limited response to social interaction
- repetitive speech and behavior patterns
- difficulty in understanding other people’s feelings and expressing their own
The individual may also show repetitive behaviors, such as:
- hyperfocus on a specific topic, such as cars or train timetables
- a preoccupation with particular objects, such as a toy or household item
- repetitive movements, such as rocking from side to side
- lining up or arranging toys or objects in an orderly way
- needing to go through a predictable routine each day
For an autistic person, a break in routine, an unexpected event, or exposure to loud, overstimulating environments can be overwhelming. Such situations can lead to outbursts of anger, frustration, distress, sadness, or shutdown that others may misinterpret as “bad” behavior.
Approximately 1 in 10e autistic people show signs of savant syndrome, in which a person has extraordinary abilities in a particular field. Their skill could be playing a musical instrument, calculating complex sums at high speed, or memorizing vast amounts of knowledge.
Autistic people may also have a higher risk of other conditions, such as:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- gastrointestinal problems
- sleep disorders
- high blood pressure