Characteristics and Diagnosis

“Stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behavior and is one of the most obvious signs of autism. People with autism may stim because they are excited, happy, anxious, overwhelmed, or because it feels comforting and soothing.

As long as it does not cause physical harm to themselves or others, it is important to allow the individual to stim as it allows them to regulate their emotions.

“Autism is ONE word attempting to describe MILLIONS of different stories”

Stewart Duncan

Common Characteristics

Please note, there is no right or wrong way to be autistic. Some will have multiple characteristics and some won’t.

  • Delay in or absence of speech
  • Repeating or echoing words or phrases. Example: repeating the last words spoken to them in place of an independent answer.
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Difficulty with changes/transitions in routine
  • Repetitive movements or speech/sounds. Also known as stimming (hand flapping, rocking, lining up or grouping of items).
  • Intense interest in particular subjects/objects
  • Difficulty in socializing (back and forth conversations, reading of body language or facial expressions, understanding personal space).
  • Aversions to certain sounds, lighting, smells, or textures.


The standardized criteria to help diagnose ASD is based on The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and follows as such:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Your child is the same person before the autism diagnosis as they are after the diagnosis. Your actions and lifestyles may change, but your love for them never will.

Alicia Trautwein