What are the Main Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that can be identified in early childhood, usually between 12 and 24 months of age. Although the symptoms of ASD do not usually go away, people with this disorder can learn to function well. It is important to note that individuals with ASD can vary widely in their level of functioning, and not everyone with ASD will experience all of the symptoms. While ASD is a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person's symptoms and daily functioning.

This could be because they fall into the highest functioning range of the autism spectrum and their symptoms are less severe, or because they were misdiagnosed with a condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Others may appear to develop normally during the first few months or years of life and then begin to show symptoms. Caregivers and teachers are often the first to recognize ASD symptoms in older children and adolescents attending school. Milder symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder who work best may not be recognized until they are in school.

This booklet presents information about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including signs and symptoms, causes and risk factors, diagnosis in young children, older children, adolescents and adults, and treatments. A small number of children appear to develop normally during the first year, and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age when they develop symptoms of autism. When interacting with others, autistic children may find it difficult to share their emotions and interests with others or find it difficult to have a conversation back and forth. They may also display intense focus on an item, lack of response, lack of understanding of social cues (such as tone of voice or body language), repetitive movements, or self-abusive behavior such as banging their head.

Early symptoms and signs in infants can vary, but may include lack of eye contact or decreased eye contact, focusing too much on one topic, and lack of back-and-forth play. It is important to note that a person with autism spectrum disorder will not show all symptoms and the symptoms will vary in severity.

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