What are Common Characteristics of Autism?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2019
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Autism is not a uniform condition. People who have this condition may exhibit very unique and different behavior, even setting themselves apart from others who also have autism. There are some common characteristics of autism, however, and can include an insistence on sameness, difficulty relating to others and dealing with social interaction, aloofness, having little to no interest in physical forms of affection, pairing items in lines based on color or size, an over-attachment to inanimate objects, delayed speech, and an inability to express oneself. These can come in virtually any combination and patients will have drastically different levels of severity. For instance, one autistic individual may have little or no speech delays while another will fail to speak at all by the age of four.

Despite what many believe, people with autism are actually generally of average or above average intelligence. It is considered a disorder which affects a person's ability to express oneself appropriately. Autistic individuals often throw tantrums, cry, laugh, and display other inappropriate behaviors because they cannot find a more productive way of expressing needs or wants. With early interventions and proper therapy, most children who are diagnosed with autism can go on to lead a fairly normal and productive life.


Often the first noticeable characteristics of autism involve social development and verbal skills. As babies, those with the condition may fail to smile on schedule, may not make eye contact, or show any interest when a caretaker enters the room. This is normally not the case, since most people with autism are diagnosed slightly later during the toddler or preschool years. Often, development in social interaction is fine and then the child begins to regress. Speech development may also come to a halt, and the child may stop using words that he or she was already proficient at using.

The child may begin to develop additional autism characteristics soon after. These can include withdrawn behavior, severe tantrums, and expressing emotions for seemingly no reason. He may begin to cry, laugh, or become angry with no external provocation. When spoken to, he may repeat certain phrases or songs without cessation and with disregard to what the parent or guardian is saying. Many times, phrases will be ones heard frequently on a favorite TV show or movie.

Many characteristics of autism may have to do with repetition and patterns. For instance, an autistic child may want to watch the same movie or episode of a television show over and over again. He may place blocks, crayons, or food in a particular order, often placing them in groups based on size or color. He may repeat the same words or phrases frequently or exhibit repetitive behavior like banging his head against a wall or rocking back and forth in a rhythmic motion.

Characteristics of autism may be present in varying degrees of severity. Some may not be present at all, while others may become quite troublesome and some behaviors can be nearly obsessive in nature. Due to their inability to communicate properly, autistic individuals may have trouble learning at the same pace or in the same ways as others. This can lead to even further frustration and behavioral problems.

If a child is showing characteristics of autism, he or she should be evaluated by a specialist as soon as possible. Treatment is normally successful at enabling these children to function at a higher level than normally would be possible, with most kids eventually becoming self sufficient and successful adults. Even lower-functioning children may have a much better quality of life if given the proper treatment, and the earlier it is started the better the potential gains.



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