Autism is a mental health condition that affects an individual’s ability to socialize, communicate, and understand abstract concepts. Autism is present from birth and in more than 1% of the population in many countries. Autism is categorized as part of the autism spectrum disorder, which groups together a number of similar conditions including Asperger’s syndrome. Autism itself can also vary in severity, with some autistic people struggling with even the most basic communication and others being fully independent and high functioning. For these reasons, it is incorrect to think of autism as an illness to be treated. There is no ‘cure’ for autism and indeed, many people see it as an important and valuable part of their identity with its own strengths and weaknesses – just like any cluster of personality traits.
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding autism, which can make it difficult to identify and diagnose. In this list, we will be counting down 20 symptoms of autism, to help better understand the condition and recognize it.
1. Minimal Eye Contact
One of the earliest signs of autism in children is a tendency to avoid eye contact. This is one of the earliest and most fundamental aspects of communication and connecting with others – which are areas that those with autism struggle with.
For some with autism, understanding the motivations and thoughts of others is an alien concept. Thus they may show less interest in the actions or behaviors of others – or might alternatively find maintaining eye contact to be stressful and overwhelming. Some have even described the feeling as ‘burning’. In this way, it is now thought that this behavior has less to do with a lack of interest or concern and more to do with a strategy to avoid ‘excessive arousal’ – perhaps due to imbalances in the excitatory and inhibitory functions of the brain.
For parents that notice their young children avoiding eye contact, this is an important symptom to have checked. It might an alternative point to visual or hearing impairment.