Surrounded by cheerful, talkative 8-year-olds, an autistic child might be non-communicative and uncomfortable with the noise and activity. Approximately 1 in 59 children in the United States have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2014 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
ASD is a group of conditions with similar symptoms -- it includes autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome. Boys are about 4 times more likely to develop ASD than girls.
Eight-year-olds with autism may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms related to social interactions, emotional reactions, communication skills and physical functions. The type and severity of symptoms will vary from person to person. Contact your child's doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
Normally developing 8-year-olds work to create 2-way relationships, make friends easily and are able to have close friends. An 8-year-old with autism, however, may struggle with friendships, dislike being with others and be unable to reciprocate in relationships. According to the CDC, children with autism struggle with taking turns and sharing, which makes it difficult for other children to want to play with them.
Other social symptoms of autism include not respecting or understanding personal space issues, difficulty noticing other people's feelings and interacting only to achieve a goal, not for the enjoyment of social interaction.
An 8-year-old with autism might not like to be touched, refusing overtures of affection from family or friends. By contrast, a normally developing 8-year-old gives and receives affection through hugs, kisses and holding hands. Autistic children may also have abnormal emotional responses to situations, according to the CDC. A non-autistic 8-year-old may be giggly, silly, fearful or sad, but the emotion is appropriate for the situation.
A child with autism may not seek or receive comfort from parents when injured, whereas a non-autistic child will turn to mom and dad for reassurance and nurturing. Autistic children typically prefer routines and when these routines are disrupted, they can become very frustrated and have temper tantrums.
Communication impairments may also be symptoms of autism in an 8-year-old. Words may be repeated over and over, unrelated answers may be given to questions and direct eye contact may be avoided. The child may speak in a monotone or singsong voice. In addition, non-verbal communication -- such as facial expressions, gestures and body movements -- might not match their words. For example, a child with autism might look very sad when reading something funny.
An 8-year-old with autism might annoy other children with his persistence about a particular topic. Instead of mentioning a preferred topic some of the time, the topic may become the focus of every conversation. Some children with autism never speak like children, as they fail to learn "kid-speak" from their peers -- they speak like adults instead.
Children with autism may suffer from issues relating to textures, sounds and tastes. A regular 8-year-old often loves school, but an autistic child might feel overwhelmed and overreact to the sounds and activity. Some autistic children display repetitive body motions like spinning in circles, flapping their hands or rocking from side to side.
An autistic 8-year-old may play repeatedly with just one toy or even just one part of a toy, such as the wheels on a truck. Some autistic children have unusual sleeping or eating habits, such as eating nonfood substances like dirt or paper.
Reviewed by Mary D. Daley, M.D.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) -- Signs
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) -- Data and Statistics
- Autism Speaks: Learn the Signs
- American Family Physician: Autism Spectrum Disorder
- American Family Physician: Autism Spectrum Disorder -- Primary Care Principles