Autism is a highly variable chronic brain development disorder that begins very early in life. Most patients start developing the classical symptoms of autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) at the age of six months, with most patients beginning to have more pronounced symptoms between the ages two and three, and progress until adulthood without remission. These symptoms, which include impaired speech development, communication, and social interaction, repetitive and restrictive interests and behaviors, are the hallmarks of autistic behaviors.
As is already apparent, there are three dimensions to autistic behaviors- social development, communication, and repetitive behavior.
Impaired social development separates autism and ASDs from other developmental disorders, whether physical or cognitive, and from normal children. One mark of autism is a child’s decreased ability to react to social stimuli or the nuances of communication. They also have poor eye contact and may have difficulty understanding the concept of taking turns. Because autistic children also have little to no social understanding, they are more spontaneous when interacting with other people.
They also have lessened ability to understand social communication, conventions, and social understanding; they also score poorly in tests of identifying faces as well as recognition of emotions. They, however, have the capacity to become attached to their primary caregivers and develop bonds with a small number of friends. For them, quality counts more than quantity.
Autistic behaviors may also extend to violence and aggression. Although conclusive evidence are yet to be established, different studies suggest that violent and aggressive behaviors are not exclusive to autistic and ASD patients. More often than not, these are displayed by patients who have psycho-pathological disorders.
Often when they communicate, autistic children tend to use non-verbal languages and touches more than words and phrases. This is because the majority of them, with the exclusion of those patients who have higher mental development, failed to develop natural speech. The onset of common speech milestones is limited as shown by the delay in babbling, ability to form and combine jargons, and ability to use vocabulary properly.
In fact, the majority of them are stuck with unusual gestures and vocal patterns. As the condition worsens, patients become less responsive and unable to share their experiences and emotions. The use of reverse pronouns (a language abnormality that is marked by one’s reference of oneself as “she”, “he”, “you” and proper names) and echolalia (a symptom common among patients of ASDs that involves the repetition of another person’s vocalization) also become more evident, and so does failure to develop joint attention properly (the process that uses nonverbal means such as pointing to direct another person’s attention to a stimulus or object). Their impairments often give them their characteristic autistic behaviors.
Autistics often display repetitive and restrictive behaviors. It is not uncommon for them to have compulsive behaviors, to be locked with stereotypy or forms of repetitive movements such as head rolling, and hand flapping, and to have resistance to change. They are also associated with ritualistic behaviors and limited focus and interest. These patients also have the tendency to hurt themselves, whether slightly or seriously.