(HealthDay News) -- Autism is expressed in many ways, with one person having very different features or symptoms from another. That's why health professionals refer to autism as a spectrum disorder, meaning that it encompasses a group of disorders with a range, or spectrum, of similar features, from mild to severe.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, people with autism might have problems talking with others, or they might not look other people in the eye when talking with them. Some never learn to talk. They may have to line up their pencils before they can pay attention, or they might say the same sentence over and over to calm themselves down. They may flap their arms to tell you they're happy; they might hurt themselves to tell you they're not.
The main signs of the disorder show up in three developmental areas:
Communication, including problems with spoken communication as well as nonverbal communication, such as pointing, eye contact or smiling.
Social interaction, such as having trouble sharing emotions, understanding how others think and feel, and holding a conversation.
Routines and repetitive behaviors, such as repeating words or actions, obsessively adhering to routines or schedules, playing with toys or objects in repetitive and possibly inappropriate ways or having very specific and inflexible ways of arranging items.
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