Autistic behaviors are most commonly diagnosed before the age of 3. As a child grows, the symptoms become more pronounced. Autism is an all-encompassing name that includes symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, also known as pervasive developmental disorder. Possible causes for autism include, but are not limited to, genetics, certain infections, problems at birth and brain abnormalities.
Social ineptness will occur in various degrees for teens suffering from autism. Examples include an inability to interpret social cues such as body language, facial expression or tone of voice; difficulty understanding the perspective of others; inability to make friends; inability to communicate in a normal fashion when it comes to "give and take" situations, or difficulty in verbal interactions and understanding language.
Teens exhibit autistic tendencies during the day when their routine is interrupted. Structure and routine keep an autistic teen on track. A disruption in this routine may cause irritability, anger and depression. The routine begins once they get up in the morning and concludes when they go to bed at night. They enact rituals or display preoccupation with such things as putting the toothpaste in the same location every day and having their clothes hung in the closet in a specific order.
Normal environmental factors may cause unusual responses from a teen with autistic tendencies. Sensory stimulation such as sounds, smells, textures and lights may cause the teen to act irrationally compared to a normal functioning teen. An example of an environmental distraction is a fire or tornado drill during the school day. This may cause the autistic teen to have a reaction ranging from fear to aggression toward others.
Emotions, such as crying, laughing, verbal outbursts, self-injury and possible aggressive behaviors, are difficult for an autistic teen to regulate. These emotions may be more difficult to handle when environmental issues are infused into the situation.
Obsessions and Compulsions
It is common for autistic teens to have an obsession or compulsion with repetitive behaviors such as head banging, tip toeing, hand movements or arm movements. Other areas of obsessions and compulsions include specific topic areas or persistent preoccupation with such things as numbers, facts or a certain object or activity. It is extremely difficult to change the direction of a conversation or behavior when an autistic teen is focused on a specific topic.
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