There are three main characteristics that individuals on the autism spectrum will display. The extent to which each individual displays these characteristics can and will vary from one individual the next


There is a significant delay in, total lack of speech development, or loss of speech that was once present. An individual with autism may have difficulties in initiating or engaging in conversations. Some will use language in a repetitive manner, e.g., scripting lines learned from others, video's, television, etc., echoing back that exact word or phrase used, or want to talk about a "high interest" topic over and over again.

Social interaction

An individual on the autism spectrum may not use or understand non-verbal communication; many times they will have difficulty developing peer relationships that are appropriate for his or her age. There is often a noticeable lack of emotional engagement and or empathy toward others. Individuals with autism may appear aloof and indifferent to others.

Behavior and interests

Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities are a trademark of individuals on the spectrum. An individual may have an intense fixation on certain subjects or objects. Many individuals will have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, preferring instead to engage in rituals or routines. In children, there is a lack of pretend skills and role model play (like Mom, like Dad). Repetitive movements, such as hand flapping, toe walking or spinning of objects, may also be present.

"Learn the Signs – Act Early" – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

What are some of the signs of ASDs?

People with ASDs may have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASDs also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. ASDs begin during early childhood and last throughout a person's life.

What can I do if I think my child has an ASD?

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. If you or your doctor thinks there could be a problem, ask for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist, or you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older).

A child or adult with an ASD might:

  • not play "pretend" games (pretend to "feed" a doll)
  • not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
  • appear to be unaware when other people talk to them but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words they were using)

Where can I take my child for an evaluation? Check out our diagnostic services page.