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Recognising Autism: Signs and Characteristics at Different Ages

Autism is a unique developmental condition that influences how individuals communicate, behave, and interact with others. The characteristics of autism can vary widely and may present differently depending on the age of the individual. Here’s a simple guide to help you recognise the distinctive traits of autism at different stages of life.

Early Childhood (0-3 Years)

  1. Unique Communication Style: By age 2, most children begin to form words and short sentences. A child with autism might develop speech later or find other ways to communicate effectively, such as using gestures or pictures.

  2. Distinctive Eye Contact: They might have a unique way of making eye contact or may focus more on objects than people, showing an intense interest in their surroundings.

  3. Independent Play: They may enjoy playing alone, exploring their toys in a detailed and focused manner.

  4. Repetitive Movements: Engaging in movements like flapping hands or rocking back and forth, which can be soothing and help them manage their emotions.

  5. Heightened Sensory Awareness: Showing strong reactions to sensory experiences like sounds, lights, or textures, indicating a heightened awareness of their environment.

School-Age (4-12 Years)

  1. Selective Friendships: They may prefer a small circle of friends and form deep, meaningful connections rather than engaging with large groups.

  2. Love for Routine: Thriving on routine and structure, which helps them feel secure and in control.

  3. Focused Interests: Displaying intense interests in specific topics or objects, often becoming very knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen interests.

  4. Emotional Honesty: Expressing their emotions openly and honestly, which can be refreshing and direct.

  5. Creative Language Use: Using language in unique ways, such as repeating phrases or speaking in a distinctive tone, adding a creative flair to their communication.

Teenagers (13-18 Years)

  1. Authentic Relationships: Building and maintaining friendships with those who appreciate and understand them, focusing on quality over quantity.

  2. Strong Sense of Integrity: Often having a strong sense of right and wrong, with a clear moral compass.

  3. Passionate Pursuits: Engaging deeply in specific hobbies or interests, often achieving a high level of expertise and dedication.

  4. Literal Thinkers: Approaching the world with a literal and straightforward perspective, which can lead to clear and honest communication.

  5. Sensory Appreciation: Experiencing the world through heightened sensory perceptions, finding joy in details that others might overlook.

Adults (19+ Years)

  1. Unique Social Communication: Approaching social interactions in a distinctive way, often bringing a fresh perspective and authenticity to relationships.

  2. Love for Consistency: Finding comfort and success in routine and consistency, which can lead to reliable and methodical work habits.

  3. Career Passion: Excelling in careers that align with their interests and strengths, often bringing innovation and dedication to their work.

  4. Independent and Unique Living: Leading a life that reflects their personal values and preferences, sometimes with support for tasks like organising or managing finances.

  5. Expertise and Focus: Becoming highly skilled and knowledgeable in areas of interest, contributing valuable insights and expertise.

Recognising these positive characteristics and unique traits early can help in providing support and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for individuals with autism.


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