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Characteristics of people on the autism spectrum

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Characteristics of people on the autism spectrum
Primary Characteristics
Communication and social challengesFocus on a specific topic or interestAutism Spectrum or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) indicates that there is a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, and challenges experienced in a different mix by each person on the spectrum
Communication & Social Challenges
SpeechProblems with taking turns in conversation – may speak over others or monopolize conversationMay not speak out at allMay speak loud or in a flat voice (little intonation/inflection)Repetitive patterns of speech or parrotingCritical or honest and direct in ways that may embarrass or hurt others
Communication & Social Challenges
Literal interpretation of speechProblems understanding sarcasm, abstract language, and some forms of humorIdioms (save your breath, jump right in); double meanings; nicknames; cute names (e.g. pal, buddy) are often not understood or are outright confusingPerson may get stuck trying to decipher what did not make sense (of the above) and miss the actual point of what is being said
Communication & Social Challenges
Nonverbal communicationDoes not receive the cues that body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice may give other people (inferring intent from a text or email)May have limited facial expressions or gestures (flat affect), others may think they are stiff or unfriendlySeem to lack emotional reactivity or have unexpected or “inappropriate” reactivity (ex. laughing when uncomfortable or overwhelmed)Uncomfortable or overstimulated by making eye contact
Communication & Social Challenges
Can struggle to understand or accept other points of viewDifficult to analyze characters in stories, discuss feeling and emotions, or engage in imagination based activitiesMay struggle to identify the important information, key ideas, etc.Writing can be physically painful and may not be a full or good expression of what the person knows
Focus on Specific Topic or Interest
May spend a great deal of time researching or talking about that topic, even if it is not a topic of interest or focus of those around the personCan lack interest in engaging other topicsFind it disruptive and upsetting to stop doing something ofinterestFavored topics may be a frame of reference to understand other things; can interrupt lecture to discuss favored topic
Other Common Characteristics
Body awarenessMay stand too close to others, does not know when invading personal spaceDifficulty navigating rooms and avoiding obstructionsMay bump intopeople and not realize/apologize; can be very reactive to being bumpedSensory stimulationBrain processes more sensory input than others, can cause stress, anxiety and physical painObjects can appear dark or blurred; may appear to jump around
Other Common Characteristics
Lights can be painfully bright, may hide eyes to copePoor depth perception can lead to clumsinessLess overwhelming to focus on a small detail rather than a whole object or pictureLoud sounds can be magnified and incredibly startling; noisy places can be soothingInability to cut through background noiseMay have no sense of smell or be overwhelmed by odorsSkin is especially sensitive to touch and texturesMay wear a limited number of outfits because most fabrics and fits are painfulMay avoid hugging, shaking hands, etc. or can be soothed by having tight pressure applied across the bodyTextures (and smell) of food may limit dietMay need to rock, swing, or spin to get some sensory input
Other Common Characteristics
Can be forgetful or tend to lose thingsManaging time, prioritizing, and organization skills can be challengingMay need simple yet specific, concrete, written and/or verbal instructionsDifficulty conceptualizing progress in courses and are surprised by final gradesChanges in routine can be upsetting
Cautions
Other causes of characteristicsTalking with hands and limiting distractionsAvoid verbal overload, shorter sentencesDo not take behavior personally – behavior is typically from not understanding how it affects others and as way to cope in confusing, disorienting, or overwhelming environmentsIncrease in unusual or difficult behaviors probably indicates an increase in stress
Cautions
Do not assume that because person says they understand that they actually doAvoid stigmatizing differenceDisclosingSuccess and survival may have meant learning or pretending to react like othersMay not feel safe disclosing or discussingMay believe others do not notice how they are experiencing the world or that there characteristics or noticeable

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Characteristics of people on the autism spectrum