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The Layman’s Guide to Autism: How can I tell if someone has autism?

Posted on May 6, 2019 by Ann

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At All In, we sometimes get interesting questions from the general public, like “Do people with autism understand sarcasm?” and “How can I tell if someone has cerebral palsy or autism?”

The Layman’s Guide to Autism are simplified answers to these real questions from laymen

Today, we will be answering this question from our friend, Rambo:

How can I tell if someone has autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a broad range of conditions related to social communication challenges, and restrictive, repetitive behaviours.

Since each person with ASD exists on a spectrum and there is a broad range of symptoms with different levels of severity for each symptom, you cannot tell if someone has ASD just by looking at them. Instead, you need to observe his or her behaviour.

Sometimes a person may show obvious signs of autism. Here are some points you can look out for:

1. A person with autism may wear something that will give you an insight to their condition. For example, they may wear an autism bracelet, or carry a Developmental Disability Registry (DDR) Identity (ID) card or an informal autism ID card. This is the surest way to know for sure whether someone has autism.


2. A person with autism may have certain behaviours:

    • Poor eye contact
    • Repetitive behavior such as hand-flapping
    • Avoids or rejects physical contact
    • Does not understand or use non-verbal communication
    • Impulsive and/or aggressive behaviour
    • Poor coordination
    • Strong responses to sensations such as sounds or smells

However, just because a person shares some of these symptoms does not mean that they have ASD. For example, they may just be very shy.

Also, just because a person doesn’t show any signs doesn’t mean they do not have autism. Sometimes,  even a trained professional might not be able to tell if someone has ASD without using diagnostic tools. This is especially the case for milder cases or high ability cases.

So what we are saying is, just don’t be too hasty to judge and label anyone you are meeting for the first time.

It doesn’t matter whether the person you’ve met has autism or not; you can never go wrong with showing some empathy, kindness and patience.


Read more

The Layman’s Guide to Autism: What is the difference between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism?

The Layman’s Guide to Autism: What can I do if I see a stranger with autism having a meltdown?

All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.