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Autism Causes and Characteristics

ASD characteristics appear early in a child’s development. This is why autism is considered to be a “development disorder.” The cause of ASD is still unclear, Some studies show ASD is linked to genes or complications from pregnancy and birth. Other theories site infection, dietary imbalance, exposure to chemicals and vaccinations as playing a part.


Autistic people are “wonderful, rarely boring, unique and passionate.” – Kerry Margro, My Autism My Voice

For a person to receive a diagnosis of autism these four characteristics are usually present



Autistic individuals experience communication challenges. These can be verbal, non-verbal or both. Many experience a delay in language development in early childhood. In extreme cases, some children with autism may develop limited language ability.

While development does occur (albeit slowly), speech can sound disordered or limited to ‘echolaia.’ This is akin to the parroting of words and phrases. Once speech is developed however, autistic people enjoy conversations that are passionate and interesting. Non-verbal challenges include different body language, facial expressions, gestures and signs than usual to most people.

Social interaction

Many people on the spectrum enjoy a high level of social interaction. Behavioural differences can be mild, such as showing slight indifference in a social situation. Others may show behaviour that seems less mild to others. For example, an Autistic person may avoid eye contact or affection from others. An Autistic child might play near other children, but not with them.

Repetitive behaviour

Individuals with ASD are passionate, which is likened to ‘obsession’ according to some observers. They love to order their world and create a predictable environment. This characteristic can sometimes be played out in the form of a rocking or spinning movement. Other common behaviour includes flicking hands or fingers before their eyes or tapping objects on a table.
Routine is valuable to an autistic person. They will often hold firm to certain items, places or subjects. If routine changes without warning, this can cause some distress.

Routine is valuable to an autistic person. They will often hold firm to certain items, places or subjects. If routine changes without warning, this can cause some distress.


Children with ASD may play differently from other children in a room. An autistic child might enjoy lining objects up or grouping toys together according to colour and size. They might also enjoy flicking an object or spending time spinning a wheel on a car.

Four myths about autism

There are many myths about autism. These often make diagnosis and support difficult. SASI supports teenagers and adults with high-needs autism. They encourage clients to nurture opportunities within mainstream communities. The following myths can make this task more difficult.

Myth 1
A person with autism
finds it difficult to learn
new skills
A well supported autistic
person can learn new
skills and reach their full

Myth 2
People with autism are
good at maths, art and
People with autism find a
topic of passion and
often excell in their field

Myth 3
After finishing school
austic people instantly
adapt to adult life
Young people both with
and without autism find
life after school a

Myth 4
Children can only be
diagnosed with autism
People with ASD can be
diagnosed at any age