Autism is generally referred to as a spectrum disorder with some general characteristics. Read this article and understand these characteristics for better interaction with affected people.

Characteristics of Autism

Autism is a complex developmental disability, associated with diminished neural development, which is characterized by impaired social abilities, communication skills, repetitive behaviors etc. This neurological disorder effects a person’s normal brain function and development of other skills. Autistic people may face difficulties with non-verbal communication and a wide range of other activities. Autism is a wide-spectrum disorder, which means that symptoms of autism need not be the same in two individuals. The symptoms may appear in combination and may also have different intensities. Some people have mild symptoms while others have severe ones. The way in which an autistic person interacts with another individual can vary from person to person. The affected person may be socially clumsy, sometimes offensive, or out of sync if the symptoms are mild. With more severe symptoms, the person may prefer to stay away from others, leading a totally isolated life. Knowing the characteristics of this disorder can help you deal with affected people in a better way. Read the following section for the most commonly found characteristics identified among autistic people.

General Characteristics Of Autism

Social Skills

  • The most common characteristic of autism is that the affected person avoids making eye contact with others. However, it is possible to teach such people how to make eye contact and, in many cases, they can be educated about the importance of making eye contact while interacting with others.
  • Autistics lack playing and talking skills. They may not pay attention when you try talking to them. This is because autistics do not understand the cues we generally use to grab attention.
  • Autistics respond very slowly to social stimuli. They may not smile at you or even acknowledge your presence. However, these kinds of responses depend upon the person and the degree of disorder. 
    They may show interest in talking to a particular person in a group. This is because they usually lack sociability skills and hence, cannot get fully involved in a group.
  • Autistics often suffer from difficulty in expressing themselves, especially with some simple physical movements like pointing fingers at things.
  • Research data suggests that, some autistic children may exhibit aggression and tantrums. They may frequently get involved in destroying things as well. A research conducted in 2007, among 67 parents with autistic children, showed that two thirds of the children had severe tantrums and one third of them were aggressive.
  • You may not be able to emotionally blackmail autistic people easily because it is generally difficult for them to understand and empathise with the feelings of other people. However, these skills may improve with regular reminders.

Physical Contact

  • Autistics, especially children, may try to avoid physical contact and may also express their dislike whenever you try to cuddle them. This is not generic; it depends upon the person. However, they are usually comfortable with those people with whom they interact on a daily basis, and enjoy being loved and cuddled by them.
  • They respond to physical contact differently and the responses vary from person to person. For instance, while tickling a regular person generally leads to giggles, autistic people may react with aggression, grief and even stoic expressions.

Communication Characteristics

  • Autistic people have poor communication skills. They may babble or even make unusual gestures and vocal patterns.
  • They generally try repeating what others say (echolalia) or reverse pronouns (referring to oneself with ‘he’ ‘she’ or ‘you’ etc.).
  • In many cases, joint attention is needed to help autistic children concentrate on tasks and complete them successfully. 
  • Conversing with an autistic person may feel like a one-way act. The person may not talk much, but he/she does not realize it. They feel that they are actively participating in the conversation.
  • They like to talk about a single subject rather than talking about many things at a time. They would be more pleased if you talk about them rather than other things. This is a normal human nature; autism just tends to increase its intensity.

Repetitive Behavior

  • Autistic people may show stereotypy i.e., repeating movements like head rolling, flapping etc.
  • They may show compulsive behavior like arranging things in lines, stacks etc. as if they are directed to do so.
  • They may exhibit resistance to change and do not like interrupting what they do.
  • Autistic people may follow a regular pattern of daily activities (or a ritualistic behavior).
  • They may even cause self-injury by poking their eyes, biting themselves, picking skin or even by banging head.

Learning Ability

  • Learning is unpredictable in autism affected people. They generally learn slower than other children but, sometimes, they may show fast learning; even faster than other children.
  • They may forget things easily. Sometimes, they might even learn difficult methods of doing things faster than they learn the easier ways to do it.

Above mentioned are some common characteristics of autism. Understanding these characteristics can help you deal with autism and autistic people efficiently. There is no point in getting upset when an affected person does not respond in a way you expected. Just understand their nature and converse accordingly; they will definitely respond in a better way!

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