What Autism Looks Like In Boys


Given an instant snapshot of boys playing together, it’s difficult to discern a child with autism.  Watching behaviors and actions over time, however, can be indicative of differences in processing speed that is observed by how quickly they respond, and their general social interactions.

Young boys with autism often have difficulty understanding their own perspective from another person’s perspective.  As a result, young athletic boys with autism tend to dispute rules and regulations, frequently calling out injustices and soliciting help from adults around them.

Misunderstanding of recess, sporting games and turn-taking can become stressful over time. Often both boys and girls with autism will tend to prefer the structure of the classroom setting and the familiar rhythm set by the classroom teacher versus the erratic behavior of same age peers during recess and free time.  Often boys with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty discerning the nuances of social play rules that tend to change at a dizzying pace.  It’s not long before confusion and upset can result.

A child’s behavior can be better understood in light of what we do know about autism. It is helpful to know that the term autism is derived from a Greek word that means “self”. The name suggests the most obvious feature of autism: withdrawal from social interaction. Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulty relating to people and things. Their rate of development may be skewed and their ability to process sensations and to perceive and understand events can be dysfunctional.

Boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have difficulty communicating and they may have difficulty moving in a balanced, functional, and typical fashion. Hand flapping, like air-drying wet hands, can also be associated with ASD. Using the muscles in a sudden, burst action to bang or stomp can be a way of re-booting the brain for a student with ASD.

The chief signs of autism are social isolation, lack of eye contact, poor language skills, and an absence of understanding another person’s perspective. Consider Logan, a student in general education with ASD:

Logan had a full head of thick, dark, wavy hair. His brown eyes, olive complexion, and a tall physique gave Logan an enviable and attractive appearance. Logan didn’t think so. Logan did not like himself. He was old enough to know that his autism separated him from his peers. He would frequently ask his parents why he could not be “normal”. Logan had difficulty relating to his peers and became easily embarrassed, resulting in further isolation. He was easily frustrated by following complex classroom instructions, such as those needed to complete a science project correctly.

His mother described him to have a “short fuse” and a quick temper. He was easily angered and acted as though he was always in a bad mood. His eyes were downcast, as he had learned to avoid other students noticing his uncontrolled habit of furtively glancing around. Adolescents with autism often complain that they don’t know where to look during social interactions. Looking downward as he walked through the hall was a coping strategy to avoid looking strange to other students.

Logan had an extreme aversion to certain sounds that seemed to set off alarm bells in his mind for no obvious reason. Some of Logan’s poor behavior was triggered by these unexpected loud sounds. The sound of a loud and unexpected sneeze, for example, would ‘jar’ him from his concentration. His exaggerated response to the sound of a sneeze led to embarrassment and further disintegration of peer relationships. He was intolerant of prolonged eye contact and this was a real social handicap. He couldn’t tolerate the brisk changes in agenda that are a constant part of high school curriculum. These brisk changes agitated him and he was unable to stay calm.

Autism is a disorder that has a huge range of characteristics. Doctors will sometimes refer to these individuals as “on the spectrum”. The doctors mean that the child has behaviors that fall within a cluster of problems. The current diagnosis is known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Children and adults on the autism spectrum differ from the more typical population by how they relate to people and to things. They may have difficulty providing eye contact and may have very poor speaking skills. Sometimes an object or a toy is not used in a typical manner and is instead thrown, spun, flicked at, or disassembled rather than used in the expressed purpose of the toy.

When you think of autism, it’s helpful to picture what a spectrum looks like. Think of the light spectrum. There’s so many variations in kinds of light rays. Same with autism spectrum disorder. Try not to have a set idea about autism. Autism looks like a beautiful spectrum.


Strategy #1

If your child with autism is younger and is acting irrationally – Then observe your child like a detective would and see if there are patterns to her or his actions.  Some things may seem to trigger negative behaviors and other things seem to trigger positive, calm and coherent behaviors.  Don’t be surprised to discover that your child’s odd behavior is actually your child attempting to calm themselves.  Some unique learners on the autism spectrum need to flap their hands or spin their body to calm themselves. Try not to assume that it is always due to bad behavior.

Strategy #2

If your child with autism is older and acting irrationally – when your child or student is more mature and capable of understanding that they are responsible for their own shifts in mood, then they are now ready to receive your help to better plan and anticipate the activities in their day.  They need to understand how to “wait it out” when frustrations and anger overwhelm them.  By waiting it out, they can avoid the cascade of [angry] chemical release that surges throughout the brain and body.

For more helpful strategies, my book Unique Learner Solutions is available for purchase by clicking HERE or Amazon.com!




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