Definition: a complex developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction; other characteristics include unusual response to sensory experiences, repetitive behaviors, and resistance to change; considered a spectrum disorder with wide range of abilities and disabilities.
Statistics: affects 1 in 68 children; males affected four to five times more often than females (CDCP, 2012).
Cause: unknown though genetics, environmental toxins and birth injuries have been implicated.
For a child with autism some of the common deficits/issues include-
- Impaired communication skills–may not speak or have very limited skills, may use sign language, often better with visual learning.
- Impaired social abilities–may be uncomfortable around others, not understand routine social cues, not show empathy, etc.
- Impaired response to sensory stimuli–may be over or under sensitive to touch, smells, sights and sounds.
- Wide range of IQ on autism spectrum with 33%-75% in impaired range (depending on types of testing done) with related deficits of comprehension, memory, attention, problem solving, planning and judgment.
- Tendency to wander with no awareness of potential dangers.
- Other behavior issues/problems may include passivity, impulsivity, distractibility and/or narrow obsessive focus, aggression, tantrums and attempts to injure self or others. May also have repetitive behaviors such as flapping hands, rocking and/or spinning.
- Problem behaviors may be exacerbated or triggered by changes in routine or when a child is overwhelmed with stimuli or fatigue.
- Other common issues include sleep problems, seizures, GI disorders, pica and poor muscle tone.
Some facts for children who have association with a child with autism (CWA) -
- They are children with feelings too.
- You can’t catch autism.
- To date, there is no cure.
- The brain of a child with autism works a bit differently so it may be hard for him/her to understand words; or normal sounds may be too loud; or normal touch may be uncomfortable.
- Sometimes a child with autism may do things like spinning or flapping hands if he/she is upset or uncomfortable.
- Children with autism can learn, but may need special help.
- Children with autism may have trouble making friends but still need friends.
- Children with autism may not know how to play and need help to learn.
- May take a child with autism longer to do a task, so others need to be patient.
- Children with autism may not talk like you but can still communicate.
- Talking in shorter sentences, repeating and using pictures may be helpful.
- Any change in schedule/routine can be upsetting.