The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another, but in order for a diagnosis to be made, a person will usually be assessed as having had persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, activities or interests since early childhood, to the extent that these “limit and impair everyday functioning”.

Children can be diagnosed with autism when they’re quite young, in some cases from the age of two. But not everyone is diagnosed early in life. It’s quite common for a child to not get their diagnosis until they are older, or even an adult, particularly if they don’t have accompanying learning disabilities.

Some of the main signs that a child may be on the autism spectrum include:

  • Not drawing their parents’ or others’ attention to objects or events, for example pointing at a toy or a book, or at something that is happening nearby (or a child may eventually do this, but later than expected)
  • Carrying out activities in a repetitive way, for example always playing the same game in the same way, or repeatedly lining toys up in a particular order
  • Resistance to change or doing things differently
  • Emerging difficulties with social interaction and social communication
  • Behavior such as biting, pinching, kicking, pica (putting inedible items in the mouth), or self-injurious behavior.