CNN has a terrific article about Autism and Communication that you should check out if you suspect your child may be autistic. It has a rundown of some of the more common symptoms, along with a detailed explanation of what they are and how they impact someone on the autism spectrum.
A lack of communication skills was the chief reason I sought help for my son. He didn't make eye contact, he didn't speak more than a handful of clear, communicative words, and he used echolalia constantly (read the article for a definition of that, if you need to). I used to tell people "I speak fluent "David", but almost no one else does." It really was like he spoke another language, and he still does to this day sometimes. I just had to learn how to speak Autism. Believe me, the learning curve was stiff on that one, but I felt like it united me and David in a common cause. Like two people from different countries set adrift on an island, we had to find our common ground, teach each other our key words and gestures, and together we learned each other's languages. We're still learning, and I have a feeling that's sort of a lifelong process. God knows he surprises me with something every day.
I remember when he was four, he was tantruming once because he was so frustrated at his inability to communicate what he wanted from me. I was equally frustrated, having no idea what he was trying to say with his limited vocabulary, and I yelled in exasperation, "David! Use your words! What do you WANT??"
Thank God for Anna. She looked up from her book and sayed "Words aren't so easy for him Mom. You can figure out what he wants if you stop waiting for the words and just listen to him."
Talk about "out of the mouths of babes"! She was right. I shut up and really listened to him. So often we equate "listening" with "hearing", and that just isn't so. His body language told me a story. So did his facial expression. So did everything else I know about this kid and his habits and preferences. In moments, I knew roughly what he wanted, and with a few pointed questions and gestures, we nailed it down and he had his needs met.
All because I listened when I couldn't hear.