The impairment of social interaction and communication skills in children with autism symptoms becomes more apparent through play activities. While the lack of social interaction and speech can sometimes be missed in the home environment (not all children vocalize and interact at the same level at similar age), poor interaction with other children of a similar age is a significant indicator of potential autism.
Due to the lack of social awareness, the autistic child may appear to prefer playing alone. The tendency of the autistic to focus on an object, for example, may be apparent in a simple activity like playing with a toy truck. While it appears that the child is indeed playing with the truck, in reality he may be more interested in the turning of its wheels.
Indeed, the more or less typical ritualistic play of the autistic child does not allow for spontaneous interactive play, as a change in routine may trigger an inappropriate outburst. The lack of spontaneity also precludes any role-playing or “pretending” type of play involving other children.
Also, the child with autism who is prone to temper tantrums may find it very difficult to interact with other children, who may avoid him because of it. Additionally, the extra stimulation of having others about may overwhelm the child, who may be extra sensitive to noise. Inappropriate attachments to objects may also preclude sharing toys with other children. His inability or unwillingness to make eye contact with others may be disconcerting enough to cause other children to avoid him, as is the lack of the ability to smile spontaneously.
Lacking an interest in the activities of others’ emotions and activities, the child with autism misses out on the feelings of joy derived from imaginative social play. Moreover, play is an important means of learning about the world around him and the autistic child misses out on these life lessons.
There are many more resources and information about autism signs, symptoms, treatments, and cutting edge medical research in, Autism: Everything Parents And Caregivers Should Know About The Disorder