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Challenges with Social Interaction in Children with Autism

Social interaction issues are a defining feature of autism, and a key part of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In fact, along with repetitive behaviors and/or restricted interests, a deficit in social communication is considered one of the two core symptoms of ASD.

Challenges related to social abilities present themselves differently depending on the individual and the severity of their autism. An individual with severely limited social communication skills may require substantial support throughout their life, while a high-functioning individual may adopt strategies to adapt to social situations and function independently. 

Social deficits in children with autism can take the form of verbal or nonverbal communication problems like late or limited speech, or difficulty understanding physical gestures and cues. Emotional issues, challenging behavior, and many symptoms across the spectrum can be traced back to core issues surrounding social interaction.

Although social communication deficits in autism are believed to have a biological origin, outcomes are not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Research has shown that intervention starting at the age of 2 – 5 can produce significant improvements for children with autism. For this reason, it is recommended that all parents or guardians be aware of developmental delays associated with autism in children, starting in infancy.

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