Autism Signs and
Behavior Characteristics for Children

autism signs checklist

Find out how to identify early autism signs in children by downloading a free checklist (click on picture) and learn about treatments for all different levels, including asperger syndrome behavior.

Statistics for 2009 show that a child is 18 times more likely to become diagnosed now than in the 1960’s. Based on this, it is important now more than ever for parents to know about the general behavior characteristics to look for. This page outlines those as determined by the DSM-IV, which is the tool used to officially diagnose children.

Girl with autism signs playing with toy

If you are looking for more of a general list, you may like the other pages I have provided available on the autism symptoms page. There are some that specifically focus on infants and toddlers, to help parents with identifying any noticeable signs in kids of all ages.

It’s hard to say exactly why there has been such a dramatic increase when definitive causes have not completely been determined at this time. Despite this there are many theories including a correlation between characteristics for autism and vaccinations.

The following provides autism signs as determined by the DSM-IV Revised Fourth Edition written by the American Psychiatric Association. 

299.00 Autistic Disorder

A. A total of six (or more) of the listed autism signs from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

(1) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following signs:

(a) Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.

(b) Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.

(c) A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest).

(d) Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

(2) Qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following signs:

(a) Delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language(not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime).

(b) In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.

(c) Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.

(d) Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level.

(3) Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior,interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.

(b) Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.

(c) Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).

(d) Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

Treatment for Autism Signs

free picture exchange communication (PECS) samples

I have an entire page dedicated to listing the most up to date treatments, with descriptions for each, including DIR/Floortime and Relationship Development Intervention. There is also a section dedicated to ABA autism therapy, that will help explain the different types and how they can improve symptoms in children.

Picture exchange communication systems are also very commonly used since one of the most prominent autism signs is inability to communicate. If you are interested in learning more about these therapies, be sure to click on the link above.

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1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Pervasive developmental disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Fourth edition---text revision (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association,70-75.