Autism Behavior Checklist: How to Know If Someone You Love Has Autism


It is estimated that 1 in 59 children in the US has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ADS). 

This number has gone up quite a bit from the past two years, as previous estimates were that 1 in 68 children had autism. Interestingly, the numbers haven’t gone up because more kids have autism than before. The numbers have gone up because many children who had autism simply were not diagnosed with it. 

Misdiagnosis happens for a number of different reasons, but the main one is that very few people are educated on what exactly an autism spectrum disorder is and what its symptoms are. 

So, how do you tell if someone has autism?

Read this autism behavior checklist to learn whether or not someone you love has autism. 

Autism Behavior Checklist: Two Core Areas 

The autism behavioral checklist splits into two core areas: social/communication issues and repetitive and restrictive behavioral patterns.

For someone with autism, these symptoms will begin in early childhood and persist through adult life. Depending on the severity, these symptoms can sometimes greatly interfere with everyday life. 

When a healthcare professional assesses your loved one’s autism, they will also assess the severity of it. 

And, they will also note whether your loved one experiences sensory issues as well, as many people with autism do. 

Let’s dive into what’s on the autism behavior checklist. 

Social Skills 

Having a difficult time interacting with others is one of the main symptoms of ASD. 

Oftentimes, children with ASD struggle to develop appropriate social skills. Because of this, they often want to have relationships with others but will struggle to form them. 

The earliest signs of social difficulties include:

  • Preferring to be alone
  • No interest in playing or talking with other people
  • Unawareness of other people’s personal space
  • Frustration when others enter their personal space
  • Not enjoying social situations that other children do, such as birthday parties
  • Not using facial expressions or gestures when communicating
  • Not understanding the emotions of others
  • If very young, not stretching out an arm to be picked up or to get help walking
  • Avoiding eye contact

If your loved one is a bit older, that is, beyond preschool age, you may notice the following social difficulties:

  • Unaware of others’ personal space
  • No interest in interacting with others
  • Not understanding basic social interactions, such as greeting someone or saying farewell
  • Struggle adapting to the tone of speech–for example, speaking very formally to a friend or very casually to a stranger
  • Avoiding eye contact

If you notice several or more of these symptoms in your loved one, you may want to get the set up with an autism specialist. View here to learn more about specialized services. 

Communication Skills 

People with autism also struggle a great deal with communicating with others.

In fact, around 40 percent of children with autism do not speak at all. And, 25 percent to 30 percent of ASD patients develop some language skills in infancy, but then lose them later on in life. 

And, those who don’t fall into these categories usually still have some level of difficulty communicating with others. Communication struggles include problems expressing their own thoughts as well as problems responding to others. 

If someone you love has ASD, you will likely notice the following:

  • Trying to avoid speaking
  • Speech that sounds flat or monotonous (like they’re a robot)
  • Speaking in phrases that are pre-learned, almost sounding scripted, rather than coming up with their own words
  • Talks “at” people rather than having a conversation
  • Taking people’s speech literally all of the time
  • Difficulty understanding when someone is joking or using sarcasm
  • Reacting negatively when someone else asks them to do something
  • Repeating phrases over and over
  • Difficulty staying on topic when responding to someone
  • Delayed speech skills

Just like social problems, the severity of communication problems can vary from person to person. 

Behavioral Patterns 

As we said earlier, the second core area of autism is restrictive and repetitive behaviors. 

These behavioral patterns will manifest differently depending on the age of the person with autism. In very young children (preschool age or younger), you may notice the following behavioral issues:

  • Repetitive movement, including but not limited to rocking back and forth, flapping hands, or flicking fingers
  • Playing with toys in a way that is repetitive and unimaginative. For example, lining up blocks by size or color, rather than building something with them 
  • Preferring an established routine and getting very upset when this routine is disrupted
  • Unusual sensory interests. For example, sniffing toys

For children who are a bit older (kindergarten and above), you may notice the following behavioral issues:

  • Repetitive behaviors, like jumping, rocking or flapping
  • Constant moving (pacing)
  • Specific rituals or routines
  • Not taking apart in imaginative play
  • Picky eating habits
  • Clumsiness and a general lack of coordination
  • Acting aggressively, both towards self and others
  • Short attention span

Children with autism are often written-off as having ADHD, so it is very important that you note these symptoms to help figure out which disorder they have

Sensory Issues 

Sensory issues also often accompany autism. These issues involve someone being wither over-sensitive (hypersensitive) or under-sensitive (hypo-sensitive) to certain stimuli. 

These stimuli often involve:

  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Sights
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Balance
  • Awareness of body

For example, a child with autism may get very upset or become sensitive when the noise in a classroom gets very loud. Or, they may flinch or get uncomfortable when someone lightly touches them on the shoulder.

Developmental Milestones 

If your child does not meet certain developmental milestones, that may be another sign that they have ASD. 

These include:

  • Smiling by 6 months old
  • Imitating sounds and facial features by 9 months old
  • Cooing or babbling by 12 months old
  • Gesturing by 14 months old (ie pointing or waving)
  • Speaking single words by 16 months old 
  • Using phrases of 2 words or more by 2 years old
  • Playing “make believe” by 18 months old

If your child does not hit these milestones, you should talk with their pediatrician. 

Do You Think Your Loved One Has ASD? 

After reading this autism behavior checklist, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not your loved one has ASD. 

However, you should of course not jump to any conclusions without first speaking to a medical professional. 

Whether your child has autism or not, you, of course, want to raise them to be a confident individual. Click here to learn how to raise a confident child.