Monday, October 17, 2011

3 Common Behaviors of Kids With Autism

Children with autism vary greatly in their symptoms of the disorder, now more commonly known among the autism community as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Symptoms of ASD can range from very mild, such as a person with high functioning Asperger's Syndrome, or very severe such as a child who is totally non-verbal and has very little ability to care for him or herself.

Here are three common behaviors in children with autism.

Behavior Number One: Children with autism have an extreme need for routine and structure. Despite the severity of a child's autism, most have an extreme need for routine, order and structure in their daily lives. They do best when on a routine schedule, preferably one that is posted visually with words and/or pictures.

Children with autism frequently want to eat the same types of food and drinks, some becoming very picky eaters. Perhaps more common than a picky eater is that the children will come to expect a certain food associated with a certain event. For instance, if the class always has pizza on Mondays, and pizza is not offered on Monday, a child with autism might get upset at this change in routine.

In the same regard, children with ASD can become upset when people change, such as in the case of a substitute teacher, a change in seats, or even visual displays changing from one day to the next. An example would be that all year the eight basic colors have been displayed on a bulletin board in a classroom. Very little reference has been made to the bulletin board but one day the red one falls down as the custodian in cleaning. No one notices but when the child with autism walks into the room, he says, "Red!" Being unable to communicate what he is talking about, he gets upset until finally someone is able to figure out what he is talking about.

Behavior Number Two: Children with Autism often engage in some type of obsession with an activity, thing or even a person.

Autistic children frequently develop obsessions with people, places or things to the point of not wanting to engage in anything unrelated to the obsession. Typical obsessions involve things such as Thomas the Tank Engine, zoo animals, a certain music C.D., or even vacuum cleaners. A typical scenario is that a peer who is unfamiliar with the child with autism asks, "Hi, what is your name?" The child with ASD who is obsessed with zoo animals responds, "Jonah and I went to the zoo yesterday. We saw lions. Did you know lions are carnivores and that the male lion is the dominant one in the pride. Groups of lions are called prides. Did you know that? Lions are known for their ability to hunt in a group. Usually it's the females that do this."

On a positive note, an obsession might be used to a person's advantage. A child who is obsessed with lions might one day grow up to work at the zoo and be the one totally responsible for the lion's habitat, or even become a lion expert, do research on lions, etc. Obsessions can change over time or be static.

Behavior Number Three: Children with autism usually have some type of difficulty communicating with others. Children with autism frequently have a difficult time maintaining eye contact. They can be non-verbal but most are verbal. Autistic children who are verbal typically had a difficult time answering "W" questions, meaning who, what, where, and why questions. If a child is asked, "Do you like ice cream?" they might be able to easily answer but if asked "What kind?" or "How much do you want?" it ,might be difficult for them to ask.

Some children with autism also demonstrate echolalia, which is repeating what others have said, either immediately after another person, or sometime later. Children who exhibit echolalia can imitate words and phrases, but also sounds such as bird calls, or repeat entire passages of words from a cartoon or movie. There are cases in which a child is non-verbal yet can repeat an entire television program, using the correct inflections and pitch.

There are many characteristics of autism but the above are three common ones.

Kristin Whiting is an adoptive Mom, Special Needs Preschool Teacher, and a regular contributor to Associated Content, Ezine, Squidoo and Hubpages. She has varied interests in such topics as family life, domestic adoption, foster parenting, healthcare, education, working with children who have special needs, social issues and GLBT parenting.
She can be reached through her two blogs - Amazing Family Life or My Special Needs Classroom - or her email at

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