How do you explain autism to a child?

What is autism? 

It is a complex disorder characterized by a child’s inability to communicate and socialize with others. The manifestations of which vary greatly from one individual to the another. There’s a combination of behavior that you can observe to tell whether or not the person has autism.

The child may be at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) if he/she:

  • Fail to point at things or notice things in his/her environment (i.e., a bird in the sky)
  • Seldom respond when his/her name is called
  • Often seem preoccupied with unusual objects (i.e., a checkbook or spoon)
  • Show distress in new situations
  • Seem uninterested or fail to engage during playful interactive games (i.e., peek-a-boo)
  • Babble or talk with an unusual tone of voice
  • Display unusual hand or body movements
  • Exhibit strong sensitivities to touch, sights, or sounds
  • Make poor eye contact

It’s one thing to ask an adult to understand what Autism means and it’s another thing to try to explain it to a child. How will you tell your child that his classmate with autism will need extra understanding when he is having a difficult day in school? How will you explain to your child that your neighbor with autism can still be everyone’s friend? Please watch the video below by animation director Alex Amelines as he tries to explain autism to both children and adults.

If you have any concern about the development or behavior of your child, see your pediatrician.




Amelines, A. (Director). (2017). Amazing Things Happen [Animation].

Autism Society. (2016). Autistic Disorder. Maryland, USA.

National Foundation for Autism Research . (2011). Autism Center of Excellence. Retrieved from UC San Diego School of Medicine:

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