Informal Checklist of Autism Behaviors
An autism behavior checklist can help determine whether your child or someone you know exhibits some signs of autism, including repetitive behaviors, speech characteristics, and more. However, diagnosing autism is more complicated than reading a checklist. If you are concerned that you or your child could be on the autism spectrum, contact an expert for evaluation.
Not Turning When Called by Name
From an early age, babies recognize the sound of their parents' voices and, later, their own name. If your baby is 12 months or older and consistently fails to turn his head towards your voice when you call his name, this could be a sign of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep in mind, this can also be a sign of hearing impairment and other conditions, so check with your pediatrician.
Resistance to Touch
Some people on the autism spectrum resist physical affection and will pull away when you try to hug them, according to Psychology Today. Babies may react by crying when you try to hold them, and children may go stiff or try to push you away. It can be difficult not to take this personally, but it may be a response to sensory overload.
Repeating Words or Phrases
Many children and some adults with autism may repeat the same words and phrases over and over. This can take the form of a jingle from the radio, a line from a book or movie, or anything else. The Hanen Centre reports that this behavior, called echolalia, may actually be part of language development for children with ASD.
More Than Typical Tantrums
Occasional tantrums are normal, but frequent episodes of extreme upset for no apparent reason could be a sign of autism. Called "meltdowns," these extreme tantrums can happen anywhere. According to the National Autistic Society, meltdowns are very common in people on the spectrum. They often happen when a child is overwhelmed and unable to process his or her environment.
Reduced Eye Contact
Many people with autism may avoid making eye contact, even with family members and close friends. It may even provoke an anxiety response, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Scientific Reports. If you notice that someone seems to avoid your eyes, even when directly interacting with you, this can be a behavior of ASD.
Intense Interests and Focus
People with autism often have intense powers of concentration and will focus on one item or subject for long periods. This is different than a typical hobby, according to an article in Developmental Psychopathology. These interests are more intense and specific, and they may serve an important function in helping the individual relax.
Distress at Changes in Routine
Many people with autism get very attached to routines, becoming upset over a change in schedule or plan. This routine can be reassuring, and a change in the routine can cause great distress. This distress over change is on most autism behaviors checklists, but it can take many forms. Someone may get angry, scream or cry, or display more subtle signs like shutting down and becoming less communicative. This can be especially noticeable when travelling.
Flapping Hands and Other Repetitive Behaviors
Some people with autism exhibit repetitive movements, such as swinging, spinning, hand flapping, rocking back and forth, and head banging. Flicking fingers in front of the eyes is common as well. These repetitive behaviors are called stimming, and they may offer a way for individuals to calm themselves and better relate to their world.
Many people with autism have difficulty forming friendships, and this means they can spend a lot of time alone or talking to one or two people. This PDF from the American Speech and Hearing Association explains that solitary play does not mean that the individual with ASD does not desire friends; it simply means the person does not yet have the skills to pursue friendship or an understanding of the benefits of friendship. If a child or adult spends a lot of time alone, it doesn't mean he or she has autism, but this item is on many autism behavior checklists.
Unusual Play Routines
Children on the autism spectrum may have unusual play routines, according to the CDC. This can take the form of banging on things or throwing woodchips at the playground instead of using the equipment. It can mean spinning the wheels on a toy car instead of driving it. Every child does this kind of thing some of the time, but if it's common, it can be a sign of ASD.
People on the autism spectrum often have sensory difficulties, making them overly sensitive to sounds, textures, tastes, and other input. This can be a challenge for parents and caregivers, as well as for the individual.
Lining Up Toys or Organizing Objects
Some people with ASD enjoy lining things up or organizing things instead of using these objects in a functional way. If you notice your child lining up toys, it can be a sign of autism, according to the National Autism Association.
Listen to Your Insticts
If you are concerned you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of autism, trust your instincts and talk to an expert. A pediatrician or psychologist can help you determine whether the behaviors you're seeing are symptoms of ASD or are caused by something else. Either way, you'll have a clear path forward and more information.