Does your child suffer from autism? The first signs to understand him and how to deal with him

Medical science has identified certain symptoms of autism that may be early indicators of the pathology that should be paid close attention to

It is not always necessary to have all the indicators listed below present in order to proceed to a psychodiagnostic investigation, just as the presence of a single symptom does not necessarily lead to a diagnosis.

If all or some of these symptoms are present, however, it is advisable to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Autism is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

In the DSM, the ‘old’ category of pervasive developmental disorder (and all disorders included in it, including autism and Asperger’s) has been replaced by ‘autism spectrum disorder’.

The axis to which autism spectrum disorder refers is, in the DSM, that of ‘neurodevelopmental disorders’.

The most common symptoms of autism include:

  • Difficulty making eye contact;
  • Lack of response to social smiling;
  • Absence of orientation responses to auditory stimuli or to one’s own name, even if spoken by familiar people;
  • Difficulty following moving objects with the gaze;
  • Lack of communicative gestures such as pointing, waving, etc;
  • Difficulty in following with the gaze the pointing movement of other people;
  • Lack of appropriate behaviour to attract the attention of others;
  • Difficulty making expressions of affection or receiving them from other people;
  • Absence of the behaviour of reaching out to be picked up;
  • Absence of imitative behaviour;
  • Difficulty engaging in play with other children;
  • Difficulty in requesting help or desired objects/activities;

Symptoms that may be indicators of autism often vary according to the child’s age: they differ in the first two years of life compared to older children.


In the first few years of a child’s life, the indicative signs of autism manifest themselves much more often as the absence of behaviours that represent fundamental developmental milestones in the child’s development than as the presence of strange or atypical behaviours.

Depending on the child’s age, the symptoms are different:

  • 6 months: absence of a social smile and display of joy. Autistic children usually tend not to respond to others’ smiles, as non-autistic children often do, and do not externally express joy
  • 9 months: autistic children do not orient themselves to sounds and facial expressions
  • 12 months: children with autism do not respond when called by name; furthermore, there is often a lack of lamentation or certain idioms typical of children at this age, just as there is typically a lack of gestures with clear communicative value such as waving and pointing with the hands
  • 16 months: absence of vocally pronounced single words.
  • 2 years: absence of two-word phrases (other than simple repetitions of what has been said by others or in cartoons, music…); very often if they are present they consist mainly of repetitions of phrases heard on television or heard pronounced by reference adults.


Possible symptoms of autism in children aged 2 years and over mainly concern deficits in social, linguistic and communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal communication) and the presence of restricted and stereotyped behaviour.

How do these behaviours manifest themselves?

With regard to the area of social skills, the behaviours that may represent symptoms of autism are:

  • Appears disinterested in other people or what is happening around him
  • Does not know how to get in touch with other people, play or make friends
  • Prefers not to be touched, picked up or rocked
  • Does not engage in pretend play, group play, imitating others, or using games creatively
  • Has difficulty talking about himself or his feelings
  • Seems not to hear when others talk to him
  • Does not show interest in others.

With regard to speech symptoms

  • Starts speaking late
  • Uses an atypical tone of voice, either in rhythm or intensity.
  • Repeats the same words or phrases over and over again
  • Responds to questions by repeating the question and not formulating the answer
  • Refers to himself/herself in the third person
  • Uses language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words)
  • Has difficulty communicating needs and wishes
  • Does not understand simple instructions, requests and questions
  • Interprets what is said very literally (does not grasp irony and sarcasm).

Has difficulties with non-verbal communication:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Uses facial expressions that are not consistent with what he/she is saying
  • Does not grasp the meaning of others’ facial expressions
  • Has very limited gestures (e.g. hardly indicates what he/she wants)
  • Reacts in an unusual way to certain visual or auditory stimuli, or to certain tastes and textures.
  • He may be particularly sensitive to certain noises, even low ones.

Signs and symptoms of rigid and stereotyped behaviour:

  • Follows rigid routines (for example: insists on always taking the same route in the car to school)
  • Has difficulty adapting to any changes in the day (eating at a different time than usual) or in the environment (moving furniture)
  • Shows an unusual attachment to particular objects or games
  • Obsessively aligns objects, or arranges them in a certain predetermined order
  • Shows interest in specific topics
  • Spends a lot of time arranging games and objects in specific ways
  • Shows interest in the movement of objects
  • Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again.

How to deal with an autistic child? Here are the 10 things an autistic child would like you to know:

  • I am a child
  • My senses do not synchronise
  • I distinguish between what I don’t want to do and what I can’t do
  • I am a concrete thinker. I interpret language literally
  • Pay attention to all the ways I try to communicate
  • Let me see! I have visual thinkingFocus on what I can do and not on what I cannot do
  • Help me in social interactions
  • Identify what it is that triggers my crises
  • Love me unconditionally.

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