Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that individuals will have any number of strengths and characteristics associated with the diagnosis. These characteristics may impact an autistic individual’s daily life to varying degrees.

Social Communication/Social Interaction

  • Deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Loss of or delay in developing spoken language
  • Difficulty using speech in a meaningful way
  • Difficulty or absence of ability to  imitate sounds and words
  • Difficulty or inability to point in order to express need or interest
  • Indicating needs with gestures (sometimes unusual ones) instead of words
  • Rarely initiates communication
  • Repeating words or phrases heard (echolalia) instead of answering.
  • Confusing gender (he, she) and pronouns (I, me, you) in speech
  • Unusual pitch and rhythm in speech
  • Difficulties with social interaction
  • Unusual or lack of eye contact
  • Unusual or lack of facial affect or expression
  • Difficulty interacting with other people (responding back and forth, turn-taking), making friends, and understanding others
  • Apparent lack of empathy or consideration for others thoughts or feelings
  • Difficulty controlling emotion and excitement
  • Laughing, giggling or screaming at unusual times
  • Difficulty joining other people
  • Difficulty sharing attention with others

Behaviours:  Stereotypical, rigid routine, sensory stimuli

Repetitive, stereotypical behaviors

  • Repetitive actions or body movements (e.g. Hand flapping, finger flipping, spinning, rocking etc.)
  • Unusual postures, walking or movement patterns

 Rigid routines, behavior patterns

  • Problems coping with change; dependency on parts of routines
  • Unusual or inappropriate habits or interests
  • Anxiety or tantrums (“meltdowns”) when things unexpectedly change.
  • Difficulty with delayed gratification, waiting.

 Sensory Stimuli

  • Difficulty imitating gross or fine motor movements
  • Intense focus on moving or spinning objects
  • No fear or understanding of real dangers (running, jumping off of objects etc.)
  • Over or under reaction to sight, sound, smell, taste, pain or touch (including being held)
  • Actively sensory seeking behaviors (running, spinning, jumping, seeking deep pressure contact and hugs, excessive smelling)
  • Actively avoiding sensory stimuli (covering ears, eyes, avoiding crowded busy rooms and places)
  • Intense or unusual activity levels

Cognition and Learning

  • Difficulty paying attention or shifting attention (stuck on an idea or action, perseverates)
  • Difficulty understanding abstract ideas
  • Difficulty grasping time and order of events
  • Thoughts and actions may appear illogical, may seem to arrive at irrational conclusions.
  • Can have very a strong memory for certain specific details and facts, especially in an area of obsessive interest.
  • Difficulty using items or toys to represent real objects
  • “Black and white” thinking, difficulty in understanding “exceptions to the rule”
  • May not benefit from typical teaching methods, rather need alternative teaching methods that concentrate on visual strategies, reinforcing, step-by-step and concrete learning.

Associated Features and Concerns

  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Sudden, unexplained, extreme distress or fear, phobias
  • Eating problems (often sensory and texture related aversions)
  • Toileting problems
  • Grooming, self-care difficulties or lack of concern for.
  • Self-injurious or aggressive behavior or destructive behavior.