Using the two categories below, specialized healthcare providers diagnose autism. They also assess the severity of the autism symptoms. Autism’s severity scale reflects how much support a person needs for daily function.

The Core Symptoms of Autism:

  • social communication challenges and
  • restricted, repetitive behaviors.

These symptoms may:

  • begin in early childhood (though they may go unrecognized)
  • persist and
  • interfere with daily living.

Many people with autism have sensory issues. These typically involve sensitivities to sounds, lights, touch, tastes, smells, pain and other stimuli.

Autism is also associated with high rates of certain physical and mental health conditions.

Social challenges

Children and adults with autism have difficulty communicating verbally and non-verbally. For example, they may not understand:

  • Spoken language
  • Gestures
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Figurative language

Autism can also cause difficulty with:

  • Recognizing the emotions and intentions of other people
  • Recognizing one’s own emotions
  • Expressing emotions
  • Seeking emotional comfort from others
  • Social situations
  • Taking turns in conversation
  • Gauging personal space (appropriate distance between people)

Restricted and repetitive behaviors

Restricted and repetitive behaviors vary greatly across the autism spectrum. They can include:

  • Repetitive body movements
  • Repetitive motions with objects
  • Staring at lights or spinning objects
  • Ritualistic behaviors
  • Narrow or extreme interests in specific topics
  • Need for unvarying routine/resistance to change