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Behavioral Characteristics of Individuals With Autism

Behavioral Characteristics of Autism
Labeled as a neurodevelopmental disorder, autism is a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is marked by three prominent behavioral characteristics. These are explained in detail in this HealthHearty post.
Uttara Manohar
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018
She Did It!
The famous Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal sciences, was diagnosed with autism as a child. In 2010, she was listed among the top 100 most influential people in the world by TIME!
Autism is a brain development disorder that appears during infancy or childhood, and usually follows a steady course without subsidence. It is one of the developmental disorders, which is a part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The other disorders included in ASD are Rett syndrome, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). ASD also houses qualitative impairments of social communication and interaction, along with restricted and repetitive activities.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder which is marked by three prominent symptoms: impairment in social interaction, impaired communication, and repetitive behavior. These symptoms may be present from infancy or may start showing later on. They are described in the following paragraphs.
Social Impairment
✤ Autistic infants exhibit less attention to social stimuli, like responding to their name or participating in a group activity. They find it very difficult to pick up on non-verbal cues like smiling, making eye contact with people, gestures, body language, etc.
Autistic children calmly sitting
✤ They are often very resistant to cuddling. They also do not like to snuggle or to be picked up. Most children become stiff if anyone tries to pick them up or hug them, while some resort to wriggling loose from the person's grasp.
Autistic child
✤ These toddlers tend to exhibit more severe forms of social impairment in terms of anticipatory postures, and tend to have less social understanding, emotional expressions, and spontaneity as compared to other children of their age.
✤ They display extreme behavioral characteristics in the sense that they might either be overly aggressive or abnormally passive. They might throw a huge tantrum at something that seems inconspicuous, and may completely ignore a significant event that is taking place in their surroundings.
✤ These children have difficulty in the development of play. They normally use only parts of toys or display repetitive actions in playing. For example, they may choose to play with only particular toys and not all of them, like cars or blocks. Repetitive actions include constantly arranging the toys in a formation or playing the same game with the same toy every day.
✤ They do not prefer to share their toys with other kids and may throw a tantrum or become disturbed if someone tries to take their toy away or interferes with their play. They tend to ignore what is going on around them and remain completely engrossed in their game.
Autistic child playing
✤ These kids also show a tendency of not waiting their turn in a group game and going ahead on their own. They need to be taught to wait their turn and be patient like all the other kids. Some children avoid group activities altogether.
Impaired Communication
✤ It is believed that a third to a half of individuals with autism do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication requirements at the age when they are normally supposed to.
Mother and autistic son
✤ Children face difficulties in communication starting from the first few months of birth. For example, not babbling by one year of age, or not talking small phrases by two years of age, which is otherwise common among kids of that age. They also lack the synchronization of vocal patterns with their parent/caregiver.
✤ People with autism do not establish eye contact. They either have difficulty in maintaining eye contact or keep staring into the other person's eyes.
✤ Older children and autistic adults tend to show a poor understanding of face and emotion recognition. They may not smile back at a person or realize the emotion behind a tone of voice.
✤ They find it difficult to understand jokes or sarcasm―statements that have a different implied meaning than the words that are used. They may also not understand phrases like 'he is as fit as a fiddle', 'the sun is beating down on us', or 'it's raining cats and dogs'. They may tend to take it literally.
✤ They do not have the tendency to share experiences with others. Like pointing to something they see or showing their parents what they are doing (drawing, playing, etc.). They often keep to themselves, and do their own things.
✤ They find it very difficult to communicate their feelings with others or pick up on others' feelings and respond. They may not be able to comfort a person who is upset or laugh with a person who is excited.
Repetitive Behavior
✤ An autistic person has a highly restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped pattern of behavior and interests. Children may keep playing the same game with the same toys, or adults may talk endlessly about a subject that they love, not realizing that the other person may want to talk about something else.
✤ They are extremely resistant to the slightest change in their routines, which might break their repetitive behavioral patterns. They can get extremely distressed, angry, or agitated if there is even a little deviance from the everyday pattern of things.
Autistic child in depression
✤ A very low attention span is also a common trait. Kids get distracted very easily while doing quiet activities like drawing or painting, and may get fixated on something else, like a crayon of their favorite color or a toy that they see, entirely forgetting about the activity that was being done.
✤ They exhibit stereotypy, which is an apparent purposeless movement, like rocking the body or flapping the hands, or repeating a word, sentence, or tune over and over again. They tend to exhibit compulsive behavioral tendencies and develop a ritualistic behavior in their daily routine.
Autistic child not playing
✤ Children have also shown movements that lead to self-injury, like biting or hitting oneself, banging their head, etc. Another significant characteristic of autism includes restricted behavior, i.e., limited focus or limited interests. These people do only what they really love to. They are reluctant to try out anything new outside their regular pattern.
✤ Autism is usually treated by means of behavior therapy, and there is no one specific course of treatment that can be used for everyone. Every child needs a mode of treatment, which would help him/her to cope with the specific problems and symptoms of the condition. Which mode of therapy will work for a person can be determined only after knowing their particular symptoms and personality traits.
One very important fact is that autistic children do not prefer to be alone; it is just that making friends and communicating with people is difficult for them. At such a young age, being able to figure out their feelings and thoughts, and dealing with them is not possible. Thus, they need constant love and support from their parents, teachers, therapists, and any other people who interact with them on a daily basis, to encourage them and help them cope with this