Approximately 50% of all savants have autism, while only about five to ten percent of individuals with autism possess extraordinary savant skills.
Social Communication/Social Interaction
- Deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Loss of or delay in developing spoken language
- Difficulty using speech in a meaningful way
- Difficulty or absence of ability to imitate sounds and words
- Difficulty or inability to point in order to express need or interest
- Indicating needs with gestures (sometimes unusual ones) instead of words
- Rarely initiates communication
- Repeating words or phrases heard (echolalia) instead of answering.
- Confusing gender (he, she) and pronouns (I, me, you) in speech
- Unusual pitch and rhythm in speech
- Difficulties with social interaction
- Unusual or lack of eye contact
- Unusual or lack of facial affect or expression
- Difficulty interacting with other people (responding back and forth, turn-taking), making friends, and understanding others
- Apparent lack of empathy or consideration for others thoughts or feelings
- Difficulty controlling emotion and excitement
- Laughing, giggling or screaming at unusual times
- Difficulty joining other people
- Difficulty sharing attention with others
Behaviours: Stereotypical, rigid routine, sensory stimuli
Repetitive, stereotypical behaviors
- Repetitive actions or body movements (e.g. Hand flapping, finger flipping, spinning, rocking etc.)
- Unusual postures, walking or movement patterns
Rigid routines, behavior patterns
- Problems coping with change; dependency on parts of routines
- Unusual or inappropriate habits or interests
- Anxiety or tantrums (“meltdowns”) when things unexpectedly change.
- Difficulty with delayed gratification, waiting.
- Difficulty imitating gross or fine motor movements
- Intense focus on moving or spinning objects
- No fear or understanding of real dangers (running, jumping off of objects etc.)
- Over or under reaction to sight, sound, smell, taste, pain or touch (including being held)
- Actively sensory seeking behaviors (running, spinning, jumping, seeking deep pressure contact and hugs, excessive smelling)
- Actively avoiding sensory stimuli (covering ears, eyes, avoiding crowded busy rooms and places)
- Intense or unusual activity levels
Cognition and Learning
- Difficulty paying attention or shifting attention (stuck on an idea or action, perseverates)
- Difficulty understanding abstract ideas
- Difficulty grasping time and order of events
- Thoughts and actions may appear illogical, may seem to arrive at irrational conclusions.
- Can have very a strong memory for certain specific details and facts, especially in an area of obsessive interest.
- Difficulty using items or toys to represent real objects
- “Black and white” thinking, difficulty in understanding “exceptions to the rule”
- May not benefit from typical teaching methods, rather need alternative teaching methods that concentrate on visual strategies, reinforcing, step-by-step and concrete learning.
Associated Features and Concerns
- Unusual sleep patterns
- Sudden, unexplained, extreme distress or fear, phobias
- Eating problems (often sensory and texture related aversions)
- Toileting problems
- Grooming, self-care difficulties or lack of concern for.
- Self-injurious or aggressive behavior or destructive behavior.