Autism is one of several autism spectrum disorders that affect neurological function and development, with a wide range of severity levels from mild autism to highly debilitating autistic disorder. Mild autism can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms are so subtle. Some cases of mild autism are known as Asperger Syndrome.
Autism is most evident in behavior, communication, ability to imagine or pretend, social interaction skills and responses to sensory input. Individuals with mild autism exhibit the same symptoms but in lesser degrees of severity. Those with Asperger Syndrome show a very mild level of autistic symptoms without the language barriers that are seen in most people with autism.
Here are the basic symptoms of mild autism:
• Socially clumsy, including difficulty initiating and holding a conversation. Mildly autistic children can also have a hard time making friends.
• Unusual ways of communicating. Those with mild autism may talk too much or go on incessantly about a subject totally unrelated to the conversation.
• Inability to maintain eye contact.
• May exhibit mood swings that range from mild to extreme, depending on the situation.
• Focus on a singular toy or object for a long period of time, while totally ignoring anything else going on.
• Extraordinary knowledge about very specific, trivial details about a subject or object. This includes being able to count and name all of the separate parts of certain machines, like a vacuum cleaner or car engine.
• Little or no concern for others, including ignoring adults or children around them who may be showing signs of distress like crying.
• Exaggerated reaction to certain sounds, light or touch. It is a myth, however, that autistic children cannot experience love or affection. They just have a different way of reacting to touch, and a little patience and understanding can help them learn to deal with and respond to touching and hugging.
• Outstanding memorization abilities that can include entire books, movies, TV shows or plays. This can extend to repetitive recitation of the memorized passages.
• May display poor motor function and be somewhat uncoordinated when it comes to physical activity.
• Difficulty interpreting body language or understanding humor or sarcasm used in verbal communication.
• May be unable to engage in pretend play and resistant to playing with blocks, Legos or toys that require imagination.
• Extreme attraction to an unusual subject, like dinosaurs, astronomy or horror films.
• Resists change in schedule and may even react violently to adjustments to their daily routine.
As with any developmental disorder, the symptoms of mild autism vary widely and one or two of these behaviors does not always indicate autism. If a diagnosis of mild autism is made, there are specific treatments that can help improve the symptoms of mild autism and make life for an autistic individual much easier and happier.