Borderline Autism

What is borderline autism?

Autism is a developmental and neurological disorder that starts when a person is young and lasts forever. It affects how someone communicates, learns, interacts and acts. Borderline autism is what might be termed a milder version of the condition.

People with borderline autism display many of the same symptoms as people with autism spectrum disorder, also known as autism or ASD, but the severity will be less and the symptoms may only appear at certain times.

Diagnosing borderline autism

Autism is often difficult to diagnose due to its nature and a lack of definitive medical testing methods, and borderline autism is among the most difficult development disorders to diagnose. It usually involves the diagnosing of children, although adults can also be diagnosed.

There is no blood test to tell you if a person has autism and practitioners have to rely on behavioral symptoms. There is a whole spectrum of possibilities here, which is why autism can be referred to as an autism spectrum disorder or condition.

Some symptoms are also shared with other psychological conditions and the complexities continue. This is because a borderline autism diagnosis depends on a person displaying autism symptoms but not to a severity that they deserve an autism diagnosis.

Add to this, the fact that in cases of borderline autism, the symptoms may be transient, meaning they can disappear and reappear within weeks or months, without showing any particular pattern, and it is easy to see why an initial group of diagnostic requirements for borderline autism may be only 50% accurate in the first instance.

Symptoms of borderline autism

There is a range of symptoms which characterize an autism spectrum disorder and to gain a borderline autism diagnosis a person should display a variety of them. The diagnosis is arrived at after developmental screenings, direct observations and parental and carers’ answers in the case of a child. Experts will be looking at evidence of some of the following symptoms:

Social skills difficulties

Children with borderline autism usually have issues with social skills. They may be overly scared or shy and might be fussier or angrier than their peers. They may try to avoid social situations and eye contact and they might find it hard to feel empathy for other people or understand their own feelings.

Unusual physical behaviors

A child with borderline autism symptoms may display unusual physical behaviors, such as repetitive hand movements, head banging, arm flapping or walking on their tiptoes.

Transition problems

A borderline autistic child may well find it very hard to deal with changes. Getting new clothes can prompt a major meltdown, as can trying to move on to a different activity in the classroom.

Language delay

Many children with borderline autism may experience a language development delay. They could be completely non-verbal or have poor communication skills. Some children will also make unusual noises or be very verbal and unaware when they are dominating a conversation. Many of these children will also find listening difficult and will struggle to offer appropriate responses.

Developmental and sensory issues

Other indicators of a child being borderline autistic include extra sensitivity to light, noise, smells, colors or textures. They might also have below-average coordination skills.

Experiencing these individual symptoms does not mean that a child is borderline autistic but if they display a cluster of them and these begin when they are aged between two and 10 years then they should be evaluated and assessed.

Treatment for autism

There is no medical cure for autism spectrum disorder but there are ways to manage symptoms and mitigate negative effects of the condition. Children with a borderline autism diagnosis can benefit from behavior, speech and occupational therapy and therapy should be covered by insurance, according to listings in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5.

The diagnosis in itself can also be beneficial, giving children the reassurance that there are reasons behind the way they feel and act, and allowing them to access specialist help.

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Last Reviewed:
June 14, 2017
Last Updated:
October 10, 2017