When they talk to us about autism , we may imagine a child locked in his inner world, who does not look into the eyes, who does not respond to smiles or who does not point . But in reality, there is much more to it , and we should not resort to topics or stereotypes, because there are many myths in relation to this disorder.
What are the true symptoms of autism? Here we will know the most frequent ones, and those that the reference manuals indicate, but it is important that we are clear that each child is a world and that ASD encompasses a group of disorders; Thus, we speak of a spectrum, so the disorder can manifest itself in different ways.
However, there are two large groups of symptoms that always appear: difficulties in communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns and interests.
ASD or autism spectrum disorders: what are they?
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) encompass a series of disorders with common characteristics .
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-5 ), autism is defined as a neurobiological disorder in which there are persistent deficiencies or difficulties in social communication and social interaction.
In addition to these symptoms, the person also exhibits restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
They appear in the early stages of development
These symptoms appear in the early phases of development , but may not fully manifest until the social demand exceeds the limited capacities of the person (that is, there are “less demanding” environments, for example at the academic level, in which these difficulties cannot yet be appreciated).
Not better explained by intellectual disability
In addition, the symptoms may also be masked by strategies that the child or adolescent has learned later in life.
The symptoms cause discomfort or interference with the person’s life and are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay. Our website is completely build for parenting keep visiting for more topics.
We find two large groups of symptoms in autism: on the one hand, those related to difficulties in social communication and social interaction.
On the other, those that are related to restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior , interests or activities.
1. Difficulties in social communication
Children and adolescents with autism have difficulties in socioemotional reciprocity , which translates into difficulty establishing or maintaining interactions, sharing interests, emotions or affections with other children.
- Difficulty getting close to other children
Thus, it can be difficult for them to have two-way conversations (where one listens and the other speaks, and where these roles are exchanged). Also, they have trouble approaching other children (starting conversations, for example) in an appropriate way and interacting with them.
- Alterations in non-verbal language
In addition, within this group of symptoms of social communication and interaction, we also find difficulty at the level of non-verbal behavior .
In this sense, they may be children with alterations in eye contact (they do not look at the interlocutor’s eyes), or little expressive, they do not use gestures, their body language (for example, posture) does not correspond to their verbal language, etc.
- Difficulties in understanding and using gestures
Another symptom of ASD, related to the previous one, is difficulty understanding and using gestures . Thus, they are children who can manifest a total lack of facial expression, for example.
- Difficulty maintaining and understanding social relationships
They also have a hard time understanding how social relationships work, and maintaining them. For example, they may have trouble adjusting their behavior to the context, being “inappropriate” or inconsistent from a social point of view.
- Difficulty sharing imaginative play
Another symptom of autism related to social behavior is the difficulty in symbolic play , and above all, in sharing this type of game with other children. In this sense, their play can be much more repetitive and less functional (for example, when they line up their toys ).
Although not all children with ASD manifest it, there are some who show a lack of interest in others, especially their peers (they tend to get along better with adults).
This makes it hard for them to make friends ; sometimes because they approach others in an inappropriate or strange way, or because they feel misunderstood, and others because they are directly not interested in other children (we insist, this does not always happen).
2. Restrictive and repetitive interests
In the other group of symptoms of autism we find the restrictive and repetitive patterns. Actually, this type of symptom can manifest itself at three different levels, which are:
This can translate, for example, into excessive preoccupation with unusual objects , or “obsessing” with only part of the toy and not the toy as a whole.
On the other hand, note that when we talk about restrictive interests, we are not only referring to peculiar interests (for example, learning all the roads by heart), but also to the fact that they only like to play with something in particular , and have a real fixation for “that” game (e.g. trains, dinosaurs , etc.).
Game, language and movements
Lack of interest in others
- Thus, children or adolescents with ASD may speak, play or make movements in a stereotyped or repetitive way. When it comes to movements, we talk about motor stereotypies , such as the classic flapping of the hands when nervous, excited or simply happy.
- In the case of language, stereotypies are called echolalias (verbal stereotypies), and consist of the repetition of a previously heard word or phrase, out of context. For example, you are eating quietly and suddenly the child says a sentence that he heard this morning from the teacher.
- Finally, in the game these symptoms of repetitive patterns are translated, for example, in the alignment of the toys already mentioned.
- mental rigidityAnother symptom of autism within this group is mental rigidity, the opposite of flexibility ; They are children who have a hard time accepting changes, which is why they need so much anticipation and routine.
- Thus, they are inflexible and can manifest ritualized patterns of behavior.
- For example, always doing things in a certain way (something that should not be confused with OCD ), always greeting in the same way, having the need to always sit in the same place in class, or always eating the same thing (they can be very rigid and selective with food), etc.
Hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity
Finally, children with ASD are usually very sensitive to stimuli in their environment (for example, to noises, smells, textures…); or on the contrary, they present a hyposensitivity to them, or an unusual interest in them.
For example, they may show fascination for lights or movement, or on the contrary, feel a lot of anguish in the face of this type of stimuli. As we said, each child is a world! Also within the autism spectrum.