ASD is characterised by an impaired ability to engage in social relationships and can result in serious deficits in the ability to make friends. In fact, children with ASD often behave as if other people do not exist. This is demonstrated in various ways including failure to respond to their name when called, appearing not to listen when spoken to, unusual or inappropriate facial expressions, avoidance of eye contact, failure to respond to affection and sometimes treating people as if they were objects. Often children will acknowledge an adult only for the purpose of getting a need gratified and will return to ignoring the adult thereafter.
If a child with ASD has any social skills, they are characteristically learned and awkward in nature. Individuals with ASD also experience problems maintaining reciprocal relationships. Additional difficulties include the inability to take on another’s perspective, feelings and emotions, or to provide or seek comfort, in conventional ways – for example, a child with ASD hurts another child and cannot understand why he is crying. Individuals with ASD tend to crave predictability and function best in highly structured situations. They are likely to become extremely dependant on elements of sameness in their lives, to the extent that they can have difficulty coping with changes in their environment or routine.