Dr. Smith explains that not all children with autism (but many) engage in an array of unsual behaviors related to sensory interests, including oral, auditory, visual and tactile fixations. Making repetitive finger movements in front of the eyes is a classic symptom of autism that also likely has a sensory component.
Some children with autism display unusual, complicated movements of their hands or whole body, such as tensing their muscles, bouncing, or flapping their arms and hands when they are excited, distressed or seeking sensory input. The following clip shows a child engaging in these movements in different several different settings.
Excessive rocking combined with odd finger and hand mannerisms can be a warning sign for autism. Sal, the oldest of the three children on the spectrum, exhibits these behaviors while watching a cartoon with his brothers. Although all of the boys seem interested in the cartoon, none of them share their enjoyment with one another, another warning sign.
Nathan displays many symptoms of autism. He walks on his toes, flaps his hands and repetitively bounces up and down, all examples of stereotyped movements. Additionally, Nathan appears to be in his "own world." He ignores his mother's comments and directions, does not respond to his name and resists eating, preferring instread to make sounds to himself and wander about the room.
Nathan, a young boy with autism, communicates his wants and needs, not by pointing, gesturing or attempting to speak, but by pulling adults by the hand and pushing them into place. More generally, this attempt to direct others highlights his nonverbal deficits and poor grasp of communication and shared understanding.
Social Communication and Social Interaction
Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history
Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Behavior
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history
Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).
Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).
Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).