People with autism have challenges with communication and social skills. They often find it hard to have conversations and may not pick up on social cues. Some people with autism may not talk at all, and others may talk very well. But all will have some challenges making friends and communicating socially.

People with autism also have some type of restricted interest or repetitive behaviors. They may focus on one topic, like cars or a television show, or they may be attached to a certain object or activity. A person with autism may not like changes in their schedule or changes in the way they do something.

Autism can range on a spectrum from mild to severe, depending on how much these challenges affect everyday life.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

You can often observe signs and symptoms of autism in very young children. But sometimes they are not very noticeable, and they might not be recognized until school age or even adulthood. Signs and symptoms may change as the person gets older, but there will always be challenges with communication, social skills, and behaviors.


Communication includes understanding, talking, reading, and writing. A person with autism may have challenges
understanding and using gestures like pointing or waving;
understanding and using words;
following directions;
learning to read or write—some children with autism read early but do not understand what they read (called hyperlexia); and
having conversations.

A person with autism may
lose early words;
be hard to understand;
repeat words or phrases they just heard or that they heard days or weeks earlier (echolalia);
use a robotic or singsong speaking voice;
talk very little or not at all; and
use challenging behaviors instead of words or gestures to communicate what they want.

Social Skills

A person with autism may have challenges relating to others. It might seem like they are not interested in others or in making friends.
It may be hard for a person with autism to
share attention with someone else and focus on the same object or event;
join in play with others and share toys;
respond when others invite them to play or talk;
understand how others feel;
take turns in play or in conversation; and
make and keep friends.


A person with autism may
repeat certain behaviors including hand or body movements;
cry, laugh, or become angry for unknown reasons;
have trouble changing from one activity to the next;
get upset by certain sounds, smells, or textures;
like only a few foods;
choose foods based on look or texture; and
be interested in only a few objects or topics.