What is Autism ?

Autism Spectrum Disorders are the name used to describe Kanner Autism, Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD.) Autism Spectrum Disorder also includes Kanner Autism, Low functioning Autism and High Functioning Autism. There is no known single cause for Autism and no-one can with absolute certainty declare or prove what the causes of Autism are.  Most scientists speculate that it is of genetic origin, and just as many speculate that it is caused by external influences or other causes.   

In the mean time, parents struggle alone, separated from the rest of society because their child does not “fit in”. Autism and other Autism Spectrum Disorders place a high amount of stress, emotionally, spiritually and financially on parents.  There are more divorces in families where a child has autism than in the household of any other disabled family.

With Autism a person’s brain function occurs on different levels.  For example, a child can be brilliant in maths, but cannot communicate properly with others or mix with people. Their speech may be unusual: an example being that they use words and phrases incorrectly and repeat the same words or phrases over and over. Many speculate that echolalia, meaning the repetition of frases, is acceptable, others differ in their opinion.

Children and adults living with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders have many sensory problems and these can include:  Distress with sound, sensitivity to light, discomfort with certain textures, smells and taste.   They startle and panic easily and are insecure about heights and movement. Many children on the Autistic Spectrum have problems with eating.  I know of children that only eat food in liquid form because the texture of the food in their mouths hurts them! 

Many people with Classic Autism never speak and do not really understand language especially abstract and slang language.  However, it does not mean that because they do not speak, they have nothing to say!  It means that these children and adults must be taught an alternative method of expressing themselves.

Children and adults living with Asperger Syndrome understand everything that a person says, literally.  If one has to say that something is so funny that one can laugh your head off, they expect to see your head rolling on the floor.  They need to be assisted to understand the meaning and uses of communication.    Even children that do speak often have severe problems understanding the normal process of communication between individuals.

Autistic children do not understand other people’s emotions, reactions or social relationships.  They have to be taught with pictures, explanations, and other methods to understand what is happening. This is a process; to teach a child a specific skill could literally take months. 

They do not understand anything abstract or day to day concepts, and this causes them to be confused and frustrated.  They soon learn to mimic everything they see and hear and start to develop rituals and routines to help them function and to know what is going to happen next. 

They do not instinctively know what is going to happen next and therefore cannot tolerate changes in plans, expectations and routines.   

To be able to function they need structure with hands–on learning. They thrive with vividly illustrated games, books, flashcards, sight reading and computer software.  They learn and memorize visually, they must see to understand. Objects and pictures provide concrete bridges to words.  Some Autistic children have fantastic memories.  They thrive on subjects where knowledge does not change, for example math’s and music, simply because 1+1 will always be two.

They have analytic minds that crave facts and details, methodically and logically presented, making computers patient teachers. People on the Autistic Spectrum usually have specific interests which creates great opportunities for the dedicated teacher and parent to help them reach their full potential in life. 

It is difficult for them to talk and play quietly and they are therefore disruptive in normal school situations.  They can repeat words, phrases and sentences over and over without understanding that others should have the opportunity to answer or speak as well. They can be impatient, not wanting to wait their turn and frequently interrupts others.

They have difficulty with appropriate emotional responses because they do not understand their own emotions or the emotions of other people with which they come into contact. 

Imagination is mostly absent or very limited and toys may be used inappropriately.  A child living with an Autism Spectrum disorder may not be able to imagine that a piece of wood could be a car or a train.  Because imagination is limited, the child will keep on playing with an object in the same manner while resisting help from others and could hold on to a chosen toy the whole day long.

Some children and adults remember everything that they see, but have difficulty in understanding it, describing it and talking about it. Leave a comment on our Blog.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."  Confucius