Facial Features & Physical Characteristics Of Autism

People with autism typically have unique facial features and physical characteristics, which can make it easier to diagnose them.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 18, 2023
min read

Facial Features Of Autism

Some of the frequent facial features of autism are a broader upper face, shorter middle face, wider eyes, bigger mouth, and the philtrum.

One of the characteristic features of autism is the way individuals with autism process and respond to sensory information. This includes the way they perceive and interpret facial expressions.

Facial features play a crucial role in social interaction. They provide important cues that help us understand the emotions and intentions of others. Individuals with autism often have difficulty understanding and interpreting these cues, which can lead to social difficulties and misunderstandings.

Research has shown that people with autism process facial features differently than neurotypical individuals.

For example, they may have difficulty recognizing facial expressions, particularly those that involve subtle changes in emotion. They may also have difficulty integrating information from different facial features, such as the eyes and mouth.

Studies have also shown that individuals with autism may have differences in the way they process and respond to eye contact.

Eye contact is an important social cue that helps us communicate and understand the intentions of others. However, individuals with autism may find it difficult to make eye contact or may avoid eye contact altogether.

In addition to difficulties with facial expressions and eye contact, individuals with autism may also have differences in their own facial expressions.

They may have difficulty displaying and regulating their own emotions, which can make it difficult for others to understand their feelings and intentions.

Despite these differences, it is important to remember that individuals with autism are still capable of forming meaningful relationships and connections with others.

With understanding and support, they can learn to navigate social situations and communicate effectively.

Physical Characteristics Of Autism

In addition to differences in processing facial features, individuals with autism may also exhibit physical characteristics that are associated with the disorder. These can include atypical patterns of movement, posture, and gait.

For example, some individuals with autism may have a tendency to walk on their toes or exhibit other unusual movements when walking or running. They may also have difficulty with coordination and balance, which can affect their ability to participate in sports or other physical activities.

In addition to motor difficulties, people with autism may also have differences in their sensory processing that affect their experience of touch, sound, and other sensations.

They may be hypersensitive to certain stimuli, such as loud noises or textures that feel uncomfortable. Alternatively, they may be hyposensitive to certain stimuli and seek out intense sensory experiences.

It is important to remember that these physical characteristics are not universal among individuals with autism and can vary widely depending on the individual.

However, by understanding these differences and providing appropriate support and accommodations, we can help individuals with autism reach their full potential and live fulfilling lives.

Facial Features Can Help Diagnose Autism

Research has shown that certain facial features can be used to help diagnose autism. For example, individuals with autism may have a flatter mid-face and a wider mouth compared to neurotypical individuals. They may also have a broader upper face, shorter philtrum (the groove between the nose and upper lip), and wider set eyes.

These physical characteristics are not universal among individuals with autism, but they can be helpful in identifying potential cases of the disorder.

However, it is important to note that physical characteristics alone cannot provide a definitive diagnosis of autism – a thorough evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that every individual with autism is unique and should not be reduced to their physical characteristics or diagnosed based solely on their appearance. By focusing on understanding and supporting individuals with autism as whole people rather than just their outward appearance, we can create a more inclusive society for all.

Why People With Autism Have Different Facial Features

Recent studies have shed light on why individuals with autism may have different facial features compared to neurotypical individuals. One theory is that these differences may be related to the way the brain develops in utero.

During fetal development, the face and brain develop simultaneously, with complex interactions between the two processes. Differences in brain development may therefore lead to differences in facial development.

Research has shown that individuals with autism may have differences in their prenatal brain development, including abnormalities in structures involved in facial recognition and processing.

These differences could potentially lead to atypical facial features.

Another theory is that genetic factors may play a role in both the development of autism and facial features. Studies have identified several genes that are associated with both autism and craniofacial development, suggesting a potential link between the two.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between autism and facial features, these findings provide important insights into the underlying biology of the disorder. They also highlight the importance of early detection and intervention for individuals with autism, which can help improve outcomes and quality of life.


Are there any specific facial features that are commonly seen in individuals with autism?

There is no one specific facial feature that is characteristic of autism. However, some studies have suggested that individuals with autism may have a broader forehead or wider-set eyes than neurotypical individuals.

Do individuals with autism have difficulty recognizing all types of facial expressions?

Research has shown that individuals with autism may have particular difficulty recognizing subtle changes in emotion, such as the difference between a smile and a smirk. However, they may still be able to recognize more obvious expressions, such as a frown or a wide grin.

Can difficulties with eye contact be improved through therapy or other interventions?

Yes, many individuals with autism can learn to improve their eye contact skills through therapy and other interventions. For example, some therapists use video modeling techniques to teach children how to make eye contact in different social situations.

Are there any physical characteristics that are unique to individuals with Asperger's syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome is no longer recognized as a separate diagnosis from autism spectrum disorder. However, some studies have suggested that individuals with Asperger's syndrome may exhibit less severe motor difficulties than those with other forms of autism spectrum disorder.


In conclusion, facial features play a crucial role in social interaction, and individuals with autism may have difficulty processing and interpreting these cues.

Understanding these differences can help us better support and communicate with individuals with autism.

With patience, empathy, and support, individuals with autism can learn to navigate social situations and form meaningful connections with others.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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