Creating meaningful opportunities that enrich the lives of people with autism, their families and their communities.

Child with Autism

What Everyone Should Know
About the Autism Spectrum:
A quick guide to basic autism traits

Most people will interact with someone with autism during their lives, whether at their children’s schools, in the grocery store, or within the workplace. Although autism differs in severity, certain key factors related to communication and interpersonal skills define this challenge. Knowing the basic traits of autism allows people to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships with children and adults who are on the Autism Spectrum.

A person with Autism may…

Have difficulty understanding others’ emotions

A person with sutism may not understand why a friend is sad at losing a pet or overjoyed at receiving a work promotion. Those with autism may not react as others expect them to in social situations, even appearing to be uncaring or out-of-touch with others’ feelings.

Struggle to build interpersonal relationships and make friends

Because they have difficulty relating to and expressing interest in other people, a person with autism may have few friends. Some people with the challenge make the choice to keep to themselves, while others desire friends but have difficulty cementing relationships.

Display limited and specific interests

Interests range from memorizing calendar dates to knowing minute details about a subject. While most people express their interests through hobbies or by gaining general knowledge of a subject, people with autism have intense interest in a single, specific topic. They will pour themselves into knowing every hard fact about that topic. Attempts to direct the conversation away from the topic will, sometimes humorously, bring them back to their subject of interest.

Find abstract language confusing

Most conversation is very abstract and rife with idioms, metaphors, and jokes. While this makes language colorful for us, it is confusing for a person who is on the spectrum. Those with autism tend to think in concrete terms and have difficulty picking up on subtleties and understanding any form of subtext. Unless you “say what you mean, and mean what you say,” misunderstandings may occur.

Have Communication Challengess

You may encounter a person with autism and ask a question only to find that they are staring at you as if they understood the question, but will not produce an answer. Many people with autism are non-verbal, meaning that while they have the capacity to speak, challenges with sensory integration result in them not doing so. However, the inability or difficulty with expression is not a reflection on intelligence. Effective communication is still possible with the use of supplements such as visual aids and diagrams. The arts also provide an alternative means of self-expression. Visual and performing arts are excellent ways for people on the spectrum to convey their sensory-selves.

Have difficulty altering their routines

A person with autism will often have trouble changing routines and accepting new information that has been relayed to them. While they may seek out and find their own novelties, when it is unexpectedly introduced to them by an external source, it can frustrate or confuse them. They may prefer to complete activities at precise times, in a precise order, or with certain people. Changes in environment are very difficult, since this means the sensory stimulation of the environment can have unpredictable physiological effects. Advance notice of upcoming changes can sometimes help alleviate some of their anxiety.


A person with autism is probably more aware of us, than we are of them. Because autism offers no physical cues of its presence, it is up to each person to take the initiative in knowing how to identify a person on the spectrum. Building our own awareness of autism and its basic characteristics is crucial to the acclimation to their atypical perception of our typical world.

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