Preferring to play with non-toy objects or only specific parts of a toy (ex. spinning the wheels of a car) can be a sign of autism. Children on the autism spectrum may find lining up toys more enjoyable than playing with them.
Children on the autism spectrum may prefer to play alone than with other children. Although many children with autism demonstrate a lack of eye contact, some children have great eye contact and enjoy socializing, they may just need some help learning how to play with peers as well as understanding non-verbal communication.
Children with autism can become upset by minor changes to their routines. It can also be very upsetting to introduce something new.
Sensory Processing Disorder is where children are over– or under-sensitive to things they see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. This commonly co-occurs with autism but can also be present alone. Children with SPD can be picky eaters, may become upset with certain sounds (ex. vacuum, blender), don’t like having their face touched or getting a haircut, may show fascination with spinning or other visual stimulation, as well as enjoy listening to a specific part of a song or video repeatedly.
A child may continuously talk about one interest, for example, specific dinosaurs. In preverbal children, this presents as having a strong preference for the same toy or non-toy object. They may carry it with them throughout the day and become very upset if the object is missing.
Reading before age five, also known as hyperlexia, can be a sign of autism. It’s exciting when your child starts reading, so this is often a sign that is missed. A recent study found that over 80% of cases of hyperlexia are individuals on the autism spectrum.
Delayed speech can exist separately from autism, but having a limited vocabulary or not talking when peers are can be a red flag. Some children may only use vocabulary acquired from TV or Youtube, so they may not be using language in a functional way. Alternatively, some children use advanced or very specific vocabulary at a young age.