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Signs of Autism: A Guide for Justice System Professionals

Tips & Resources


This visual resource was developed by ASERT for justice system professionals to use as a reference guide when working with individuals with autism.

Repetitive Behaviors

  • Flapping, flicking, spinning, rocking
  • Focuses on one topic/detail that is unrelated to the conversation
  • Scripting or repeating sounds o (e.g. repeat lines of a television show or movie)

Individual History

  • Reported history of other developmental delays/diagnoses
  • History/current substance use/abuse o due to social desirability, self-medicating
  • Other concerns about individual’s development
  • Does not display age-appropriate knowledge of sex and sexual boundaries

Mental Processes

  • Displays poor impulse control
    • (e.g. constantly touching an object despite being told/given consequences)
  • Processing delay/Unable to follow a chain of commands
    • (e.g. put your coat on the chair, sit down, and put your phone on the table)

Social Communication

  • Flat vocal affect o (e.g. voice stays at one tone with little to no inflection)
  • Unusual facial grimaces
  • Avoidance of eye contact or blank stare throughout conversation
  • Individual has no friends or is socially isolated
  • May appear stubborn, defiant, or non-compliant with requests
  • Atypical or stiff body language flat facial expressions
  • Overly literal interpretation of questions
  • Increased aggravation/anxiety during interview
  • Overly agreeable
  • Appears to have a lack of sympathy or empathy

Sensory Behaviors

  • May be sensitive to touch
    • especially if unexpected
  • Overwhelmed by sensory environment
    • (e.g. covers ears, eyes, nose)

Key Signs

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Flapping, Flicking, Spinning
  • Sensitive to touch
  • May appear stubborn/resistant
  • Scripting words, phrases, or noises
  • Processing delays

Have a question about autism? Contact the ASERT Resource Center at 877-231-4244

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.