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Before You See the Doctor: A Checklist of Autism Symptoms


Updated December 12, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Does your child have these autism symptoms? No individual symptom is a sign of autism, and it can be very tough even for professionals to diagnose an autism spectrum disorder. But if your child has several of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to consider an autism screening or evaluation.

Does Your Child Have Speech Delays or Differences?

Children with autism spectrum disorders invariably have some issue with speech and language. Some have obviously speech delays or no speech at all. Others use plenty of words, but they either use the words oddly, have an unusually flat voice, or misunderstand the intended meaning of words. Do any of these symptoms sound like your child?

Are Your Child's Play Skills Delayed or Unusual?

Children with autism interact differently with toys and potential playmates. They might line up objects rather than use them in pretend play, or enact the same pretend scenes over and over again. They are most likely to prefer their own company than the company of other children, or to demand that playmates interact with them in certain predictable ways. Does this sound like your child?

Does Your Child Have Unusual Physical Behaviors or Reactions?

People with autism often have odd physical behaviors that set them apart from their peers. They may rock, flap, or otherwise "self-stimulate" - often as a way to calm themselves. They may over or under-respond to sensory input (including pain). They may also avoid eye contact, even when talking to other people. While none of these behaviors is, in itself, a sign of autism, all of them can be part of the autism "package."

Does Your Child Have These Physical Symptoms?

Sleep problems and delays in gross and fine motor skills are "official" symptoms of autism. Gastrointestinal problems may or may not be more common among children with autism: while research studies suggest a slight increase in GI issues, many parents say their children with autism had or have serious problems with constipation, diarrhea and/or vomiting. Again, none of these symptoms, individually, are signs of autism - but combined with other symptoms, they may raise enough concerns to warrant an evaluation.

Does Your Child Have Any of These Less Common Signs of Autism?

As with all signs of autism, these signs do not suggest autism in and of themselves. Quite a few people with autism, however, combine other symptoms with a very precocious ability to read, and/or unique responses to sound, color, letters or numbers. Autistic savants (representing a small percentage of the autistic population) may have amazing abilities to memorize information, do complex calculations, play piano, and so forth - much like the character of Raymond in the movie "The Rainman."
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  6. Autism Symptoms - Before You See the Doctor: A Checklist of Autism Symptoms

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