Autism Spectrum Disorder as it is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) is characterised by:
A. Deficits in Social Communication and Interaction.
1. Deficits in how to approach peers, failing to have a reciprocal (back-and-forth) conversation, not sharing their interests with anyone (or sharing enjoyment of a toy like holding it up to show mum), low to no affect (the way they show emotion), and failure to initiate or respond to peer interactions.
2. Deficits in the way a child nonverbally communicates which can include not making eye contact, not understanding or making gestures or facial expressions.
3. Deficits in building relationships including skills such as being unable to adjust behaviour to suit different situations; or finding it difficult to engage in imaginative play. There may be little to no interest in children of the same age.
B. Restricted, Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour
1. Repeating the same motor movement or word / phrase over and over again (e.g., holding fingers up to eyes, lining up toys or flipping objects, saying the word ‘baby’ again and again without any obvious purpose).
2. Stickler for the same routine. Children with autism can be inflexible to a change in their routine and may have extreme distress when someone attempts to change the usual routine.
3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that seem unusually intense (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects like a yellow cup they often hold, or a perseverative interest in minecraft).
4. Hyper or hyporeactivity (either under or over reaction) to sensory input (e.g., no reaction to pain or temperature change, adverse response to vaccum cleaner noise, excessive smelling of people, visually fascinated with lights).