The following clip shows Christian in his classroom at school. Though he is at the train table with his teacher, Christian is only minimally engaged in the actiivity and quickly loses interest, removing himself from the group. Throughout the interaction, Christian rarely vocalizes or looks at others and his facial expression is flat, making it unclear if he enjoys playing with the trains. Further, he makes no effort to keep the interaction going. He plays next to others, rather than with them and then walks away from the social scene entirely. In contrast, Christian's classmate frequently looks back and forth to her teacher's face, watches and imitates her teacher's actions, and smiles and shares her enjoyment by asking the teacher to play ...
The following clip shows several of the social and play deficits characteristic of children with autism. In contrast to his classmates, who play with a variety of animal figures imaginatively, by animating and feeding them, Christian does not play with the figures appropriately. Instead he takes toys apart, bangs the pieces and quickly walks away. He uses several words, that, though appropriate to the context, do not seem truly communicative. Christian makes no eye contact with others while speaking, does not attempt to imitate or join in on the imaginative play and is unable to play imaginatively himself.
One symptom of autism is a clear lack of interest in other children. In this clip, Christian, who is on the autism spectrum, is shown staying away from other classmates. Whereas his classmates are looking at a book together, sitting closely and enjoying one another's company, Christian remains distant, neither joining in their play, nor watching their interaction.
Many children with autism lack appropriate play skills. In this clip, Sajid, a young boy with autism, needs guidance from a therapist to play with toys and acknowledge his classmates. When left to his own devices, Sajid appears unaware of his classmates and is more interested in repetitively pushing bikes and toy cars, than riding around and playing with his classmates.
Dr. Deborah Fein describes the many forms that interest in other children takes a child can express agression towards another child, for example, and this may be an expression of interest in this child. What is not typical is lack of interest in other children not playing with other children, or watching them, or even acknowledging their presence in the same space.
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).