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What Are The Signs Of Autism?

Often the signs of Autism develop gradually, with routine things becoming more difficult.

Parents usually notice signs of Autism in their child around two years of age, as signs come to light, such as being unable to get the child’s attention or communicating simple tasks. Other signs common to Autism include a lack of language and communication skills, reduced social interaction and sensory difficulties. Each of these challenges, along with others common to Autism, is explained below. With support, these can be overcome to improve the quality of life of the person with Autism. Contact us to speak to an Autism Advisor to find out more.

Social Interaction

People with Autism often have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships, as they have difficulty reading the intentions, motivations or reactions of others. They may not openly share their interests and engage with others or may appear disinterested. Often it’s their lack of communication skills, not a lack of desire, which prohibits this engagement.

In social interactions, difficulties will be evident in the following areas:

  • Not showing interest in interacting with others.
  • A lack of appreciation of what others might know.
  • Unable to predict the intentions and behaviours of others.
  • Not realising social conventions and nuances.
  • Limited understanding of how others think and feel.

Children with Autism may not play “pretend” games, imitate others or use toys in creative ways, however, be mindful as these difficulties can also be seen in children without Autism.

It’s best to speak to an Autism Advisor and seek a diagnosis before coming to any conclusions.


Repetitive Activity

People with Autism often have a restricted and repetitive range of behaviour, with an unusual level of intensity in their interests or focus. For example, a child may show a strong interest in particular parts of a toy, such as spinning the wheels of a car, rather than playing with it in an imaginative way.

Examples may include:

  • Repeating the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking or twirling.
  • Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order.

Planning, Organising and Problem-Solving

People with Autism may have difficulty transferring skills learnt in one context to another, so skills often need to be taught in the context in which they are required.

This is related to difficulties with executive functions, a set of neurologically-based skills involving self-regulation. These include planning, organising, sustaining attention, inhibiting responses, working memory, reasoning and problem solving.

Executive functions resemble the conductor of an orchestra; although all the individuals in an orchestra may be skilled, without the conductor helping them work together, they may not sound good as a group. In the same way, a person with Autism may have all the skills required for an activity, but have difficulty pulling all those skills together. Some people may have difficulty monitoring their own behaviour or responses, so appear impulsive, active, or inattentive and/or have difficulty inhibiting their responses. Routines and visual organisers can support people with Autism to identify and work through the steps in an activity with greater independence.

Often, the person’s thinking may be concrete, literal and detail focused, so that he or she may find it difficult to see the bigger picture. As an example, children with Autism may focus on a small ladybird on the corner of each page of a book, rather than the main pictures and the story. People with Autism may have a very uneven profile of skills. That is very good skills in some areas and very poor in others One common important area of strength, however, is the ability to process information, instructions and directions, visually.

Visual processing abilities are often much greater than those of auditory processing. Consequently, the visual presentation of information is a critical tool in intervention and support.


Sensory Difficulties

Many people with Autism experience sensory difficulties around their sight, sound, touch, taste and sense of smell. Some everyday noises can be experienced as overwhelming and busy environments can be stressful. Also, some tastes, smells and textures can be distressing.

Examples may include:

  • Reacting unusually to sounds, sights, smells or textures.
  • Preferring not to touch different textures, such as paint or sand.
  • Putting objects in the mouth to feel and taste.
  • Being especially sensitive to loud noises.
  • Children with Autism may not respond to sensations that other children typically respond to, such as having food on their face.

It’s important to remember, however, that children without Autism may also show some of these behavioural signs at different ages. Contact us to speak to an Autism Advisor or find out more about seeking a diagnosis before drawing any conclusions.


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