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What is Mild Autism?
People with mild autism will display signs of autistic behavior but the symptoms will not be debilitating to the point that they need care. While they may be regarded as being odd, geeky or antisocial, many are able to live independently and hold down a job.
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Mild Autism Symptoms
Mild autism symptoms can be divided into three broad categories. For autism to be diagnosed, a person must display some symptoms from each group. The severity of the symptoms will define whether the person has mild autism which may also be referred to as Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). In the case of PDD-NOS, the person may only display symptoms in one or two areas. It is not unusual for a person with mild autism to have a high IQ in some areas but be below average in other areas.
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Mild Autism and Social Skills
People with mild autism will generally have problems with social interaction. This is often due to their inability to understand social cues and body language. A major problem with autistic people is their reluctance to make eye contact when talking to another person. They also struggle to read the signs that they are standing too close to someone, are boring them, or are delaying them.
Their social skills are often described as clumsy, and although some genuinely desire friendship and interaction, they tend to drive their peers away by their apparent insensitivity. Adults are often more forgiving, and young people with mild autism may get along better with people older than themselves.
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Mild Autism and Speech
Mild autism symptoms in connection with speech and communication are quite diverse. The person usually has a good understanding of language but may use it in an unusual manner. They often use a formal style of speaking that incorporates words that are not normally used in daily life.
Speech patterns are another area that may set a person apart as being autistic. Monotonous speech is common or words may be spoken with an unusual rhythm. Speech delivery may be faster or slower than would be expected.
A big problem with speech and language is the inability to interpret metaphors, similes and sarcasm. Words are taken literally and this may lead to great confusion and, at times, humor.
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Mild Autism and Obsessions
People with mild autism are prone to obsessive behavior. This may be in the form of routines which they adhere to rigidly. This can be helpful in a work environment but debilitating in daily life as a minor disruption can cause extreme distress.
Obsessions are also common in people with mild autism. They may have a special interest that involves a topic for which they have a natural aptitude. Astronomy is one of these; and trains, aircraft and other forms of transport are also popular. Some autistic people are gifted with computers and electronics. They often devote hours to their hobbies and may join a club where they strike up friendships with like-minded people.
Mild autism symptoms may mark a person as being strange or different, but they do not prevent them from living a relatively happy life. With support from their families and communities, they can reach their full potential and function in society with a fair degree of success.
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The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007
Children with Autism – A Parents’ Guide, Michael D Powers, Woodbine House, 2000