Symptoms of autism

The appearance of autism can vary from person to person. One person with autism may be very verbal, bright and engaged, while another may be non-verbal, and entirely introverted.

Autism spectrum condition (ASC)

The severity of Autism spectrum condition (ASC) symptoms varies greatly, but all people with autism have some core symptoms in the areas of:


  • People with autism may take longer than other people to understand what somebody is saying. 
  • They may become confused when lots of information is given to them all at once and they may take things that people say very literally. 
  • People with autism may also find it difficult to say what they want or explain what they mean.  Sometimes they may learn to use pictures, photos or signs to help them to let people know what they want to say.

Thinking & imagination

  • People with autism may think in a rigid way.  This means that they may find it difficult to consider alternatives or to accept when things are not as they expected. 
  • It can be difficult for them to think ahead and to guess what is going to happen next, which means that they may become scared or confused in some situations. 
  • The patterns of thinking mean that people with autism often like routine and are good at setting up and following routines. 
  • They may have fixed interests and be adept at focussing on detail.

Social interaction

  • People with autism may find it difficult to work out what other people are thinking or feeling. 
  • It may be difficult for them to learn the ‘social rules’ about what to do with other people. 
  • They may feel anxious or fearful in in unfamiliar places or with unfamiliar people because they find it difficult to make sense of what they see and hear.

Sensory sensitivities

  • People with autism may experience some form of sensory sensitivity. 
  • This can occur in one or more of the senses and can mean that a person may be extremely sensitive to certain sensory information (hypersensitive) or may appear not to notice some sensory stimuli (hyposensitive). 
  • Common examples of things that can cause sensory difficulties are reflective surfaces, loud noises, fluorescent lighting and long sleeves.

Further information

How to support a person with autism

Living with autism