Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child. In some cases, the baby seemed "different" from birth, unresponsive to people or focusing intently on one item for long periods of time. The first signs of an autism spectrum disorder can also appear in children who had been developing normally. When an affectionate, babbling toddler suddenly becomes silent, withdrawn, self-abusive, or indifferent to social overtures, something is wrong. The impairment in social interaction can be elicited by a lack of appropriate eye contact
Enjoying playing alone not mixing with other children of his/her age, although the child may enjoy the company of children younger or elder."They are in their own world and withdraw into themselves". The absence of normal pretend play is common in autistic children. Odd play may take the form of interest in parts of objects instead of functional uses of objects. These children may enjoy repeatedly spinning or rotating objects such as wheels, fans, and other moving objects. They may not use language meaningfully such as in conversations or be asking questions in a logical sequence. These children may continuously repeat certain songs; words or rhymes (echolalia) and they may not begin or continue conversations. Pronominal reversals are common in autistic children, including saying "you" instead of "I".
The proto-declarative pointing is absent in autistic children. These children may respond to questions by gestures or leading adults by the hand. Some autistic children are non-verbal. Many autistic children seem to have dysfunction in sensory integration, the sensory experiences being tactile, vestibular, olfactory, auditory, visual, proprioceptive and pull of gravity. In autistic children, these senses may be hyperfunctioning or hypo-functioning or may result in the person experiencing interference.
Some children with autism may show hyperactivity or extreme restlessness and others may show over passivity. Early TV exposure at ages 1 and 3 is associated with attention problems at age seven.
Autism may/may not be associated with a wide range of fine and gross motor impairments such as skilled movement and eye-hand co-ordination, speed praxis and imitation, gait, posture, and balance. 70% of autistic children have non-verbal IQ below 70, about 50% below 50 and only 5% above 100.
Occasionally some autistic children are relatively high functioning with speech and intelligence intact and some are supranormal with or without defects in executive functions. Some autistic children may show good pictorial memory. In short, they may have many of the skills in isolation, but not "connecting well", when it is actually required.
The effects of a sensory diet can be immediate and cumulative:
They actually help to restructure a student’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging/distracting
They assist the student in regulating their alertness and increasing attention span
They limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors and handle transitions with less stress.
This allows the child to focus on the task at hand, rather than for example being distracted by stimuli such as their shirt label rubbing on their neck or the smell of the hand cream, a noise outside and/or being bumped in the corridor.
A person with sensory processing disorder finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing everyday tasks and can result in, for example, motor co-ordination difficulties, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, etc. if appropriate treatment is not sought.
Sensory processing disorders can exist in the absence of an autism diagnosis.