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Home » Autism »

Characteristics of Children with Autism


By Fredda Brown, Ph.D., Sima Gerber, Ph.D. and Christopher M. Oliva. Ph.D.

City University of New York - Queens College

Children with autism may display some or many of the characteristics noted below. They may have severe forms of one or more of the characteristics, or may have only mild impairments related to these characteristics. It is important to note that with early education focused on a child's needs, many of these behaviors can be modified.

Characteristic Behavior

Social Interaction Impairments

A child may…

  • Have difficulty making eye contact with others
  • Show little body language or facial expressions when interacting
  • Have difficulty developing relationships with peers
  • Seem uninterested in sharing experiences
  • Engage less in give-and-take social interaction with caregivers, siblings and other close relations

Speech, Language, and Communication Impairments

A child may…

  • Have difficulty communicating with speech or with gestures
  • Have difficulty understanding what others are saying to him
  • Have difficulty using the language he has to interact with others
  • Have difficulty starting or continuing a conversation
  • Have difficulty using his own sentences, and instead, may repeat what others say (referred to as echolalia)
  • Lack make-believe or pretend-play skills

Stereotyped or Repetitive Behavior

A child may…

  • Show interest in very few objects or activities and play with them in repetitive ways
  • Perform repetitive routines and have difficulty with changes in these routines
  • Spend time in repetitive movements (such as waving a hand in front of his face)

NEXT: Identifying Children with Autism

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