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6 Common Autism Behaviors

Learn about six common autism behaviors from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


So what are some of the common behaviors seen in children with an autism spectrum disorder? I'm going to start out with the core deficits because children often present or commonly present with speech delay or with atypical speech development. Echolalia for example, repeating words out of context, not having the back and forth with language or the verbal volley of communication. Also, one of the commonly seen things is this lack of eye contact or gaze monitoring, which is so important in our social communication with each other, looking into each other's eyes, picking up from that, a lot of nonverbal communication. And the other thing that is typically seen is this stereotypic behavior, repetitive behaviors, hand flapping, spinning, sometimes head banging or what they call a deviant eye gaze, staring at something from the side of your eye or tracking a line along the wall for example.

These together with difficulty with changing routine; kids tend to very rigid or have difficulty with transitioning and change and have meltdowns when there is a change in that. In fact, they often want to keep things exactly the same and that's how their play is. They want to put their toys in a particular way and actually do not want somebody else to touch their toys. Unlike somebody wanting, hey, my parent, come and play with me.

So some of these behaviors that you're seeing or that parents come in describing as unusual, is seen in children with the autism spectrum, and this goes with the core deficits that these children have, which include sensory issues for example. Some kids are very sensitive to clothing and really like to take all their clothes off and lie on the ground for example, or like the texture of a certain fabric or the coolness of tiles, or rubbing their cheek against a certain fabric, or smelling things. They like to smell things or mouth objects. There're so many different symptoms that looking at the absence of one, don't just say, hey, my child doesn't do all of this but does something else. It is a variation of stereotypic behaviors, speech and language whether that's echolalia or scripting for example. And behavior has often a purpose. It can be in response to something or seeking something, or because they are wanting comfort from that. And a lot of repetitive behaviors can be doing that, a lot of stimming or rocking behaviors that you see.

Some of the behaviors are seen in play. For example, children can either just line up toys like blocks and Legos and crayons and shoes, any object, but it has to be in a certain order. Or they have a particular fascination for one particular toy. Everything is trains or everything is the solar system or dinosaurs for example, and they tend to engage more in solitary play. They're not interested in getting other children to actually come close to them, in fact it bothers them. Or they may come too close to another child for example and have difficulty with boundaries, and have difficulty with their self-regulation. There are many different behaviors that we see in children with the autism spectrum. We need to understand the behaviors, whether it is communicating something to us; and actually all behavior is communicative, and you need to understand the core symptoms, deal with the causes, and deal with what your particular child needs to make that behavior more functional and communicative so he can engage or she can engage with children and with you.

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