Autism affects each person on an individual basis, so the symptoms are unique to each individual, they can be in any combination and range anywhere from mild to severe. There are also different forms of autism each ranging from mild to severe. There are other conditions that can co-exist with the autism, other conditions that have similiar symptoms, and some condtions that share some symptoms of autism. The link below has information about each form of autism including characteristics, diagnosing, etc and has information about other conditions that can co-exist with the autism, other conditions that have similiar symptoms, and some condtions that share some symptoms of autism.
You’re basic symptoms are: http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_whatis_char
Insistence on sameness; resistance to change
Difficulty in expressing needs, using gestures or pointing instead of words
Repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language (echolalia)
Laughing (and/or crying) for no apparent reason showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
Preference to being alone; aloof manner
Difficulty in mixing with others
Not wanting to cuddle or be cuddled
Little or no eye contact
Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
Sustained odd play
Obsessive attachment to objects
Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain which ties into Sensory Integration- any of their senses can be over or under sensitive
No real fears of danger
Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
Uneven gross/fine motor skills
Non responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf, although hearing tests in normal range
Aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior
It really depends on the individual because autism affects each person differently regardless of what form they have.
Here’s some basic/general things that may help you have a better understanding of autism and how it affects an individual, but again it depends on the individual as how they are affected.
Many have receptive and expressive language disorder so it is best to speak directly to them in plain words and it’s good to speak to them at eye level for example if it is a child.
They interpret language very literally, e.g. If you said ‘that’ll be a piece of cake’ in meaning it will be easy, they would look for the actual piece of cake. Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres, inference, metaphors, allusions and sarcasm can and will confuse them.
Many have limited vocabulary, sometimes they don’t know what words to use to let someone know they need something or the words in order to describe something which can lead to body language, withdrawal, agitation or other signs that something is wrong.
Many have echolalia, which is saying words or phrases that come from books, people, tv, etc. Over and over again..they may say it but they don’t necessarily understand what they are saying.
Many are very visually oriented, sometimes it is best to show them as well as telling them, and to show them several times, they learn best by consistant repetition. Like for a child a visual schedule helps them through the transistions of their day.
They have trouble with social interactions, most don’t know how to “read” facial expressions, body language or the emotions of others. For a child, structured play activities that have a clear beginning and end are best. Sometimes they don’t know how to start a conversation or enter a play situation.
Many have sensory issues, everyday lights, sounds, odors, tastes, and textures can be very uncomfortable to them and give them a sensory overload; e.g. Certain lights can hurt their eyes, noises can hurt their ears, sweet odors to us can smell awful to them, sweet tasting stuff to us can taste awful to them, something soft to touch can be painful to them to touch. They can also have under sensivity, for example, some have self-injurious behavior, they don’t realize what they are doing should hurt because they can’t feel the pain like we do, or they may be able to tolerate much higher pitched noises than we can because they don’t hear they full volume of the noise as we do.
Meltdowns, blow-ups, tantrums: All their behavior usually a form of communication that they simply don;t know how to communicate as we do. They can occur because one or more of their senses has gone into overload; they are frustrated; etc.. Many things can play into their behavior.
Some must be comfortable around you before they will socialize with you or have contact with you, e.g. When my son began behavioral therapy he didn’t want anything to do with the therapist, didn’t want to be near her or touched by her, after seeing her for a about a month (he seen her 1x a week for a hour) he would socialize with her and would sit on her lap, give her hugs, etc. In a sense, it’s like they have to learn to trust you first.
They usually are very honest and to the point; don’t care about the superficial crap in life and so on.
I also suggest reading a couple of excerpts from books by Ellen Notbohm, one is titled Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew http://graphicpieces.com/autism10thingschild.html , & Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You Knew http://graphicpieces.com/autism10thingsstudent.html , they will give you some basic insight about autism and how it can affect someone and give you a better understanding of autism from their perspective.
I want to state one thing that I don’t feel is totally true, someone stated that people with autism tend to focus on one area, or say excel in one area and yes that is very true in many cases with autism but not with all, some do excel in more areas than one and I say this because my son is one of those who do excel in more than one area.. And some don’t excel in any particular area at all and I feel that is one of the many misunderstandings of autism.