Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects the way a person views and interacts with the world around him. Persons with Autism have difficulties in the areas of social interaction, communication and imagination. They also prefer sameness, consistency and structure.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that, while all people with Autism share certain difficulties, their disorder will affect them in different ways. Some people with Autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.
People with Autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, taste, smells, light, colors and movement. Due to the nature of the disability, children with Autism benefit greatly from individualized education.
Some people with Autism may find it difficult to:
- Tell people what they need, and how they feel.
- Meet other people and to make new friends.
- Understand what other people think.
Not everyone with Autism will find these things difficult because everyone with Autism is different. You cannot always tell that someone has Autism just by looking at them. Because of this Autism is sometimes called a hidden disability. Autism lasts for all of a person’s life but can still do a lot of things and learn a lot of skills.
CAUSES OF AUTISM
Autism has no definite known cause. In our current generation, according to researchers, it is believed that Autism is a Multigenetic disorder which means that one may have different genes that makes it more likely to develop Autism. There are some environmental factors that can trigger the development of Autism if one already has these potential genes. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a child. There is no proof that Autism as a spiritual illness as mostly assumed by people in the society, which is causing a high rate of stigmatization for children with Autism and their families.
No one knows why people have Autism. If your child has Autism, it is not because you are a bad parent. More than 1 person in a family may have Autism.
MODELS OF AUTISM
Old Model: Autism is an incurable, life-long, hard-wired genetic brain disorder.
New Model: Autism is a whole-body condition, with genetic vulnerabilities and environmental triggers, which presents many opportunities for interventions that can improve level of functioning, health and well-being.
(Source: Online course – Autism and the Environment 101. www.autism-society.org)
There are no medications that can cure Autism. Early intervention is always the right way to treat Autism. At the early stage when there are signs showing that the child has communication challenges, unusual behavior, can’t relate well with people in the society, he or she must be sent to the neuro pediatrician as soon as possible to help diagnose if the child has Autism or any other developmental disorder.
After diagnosing the child, he or she will need Autism Specific therapy, which can be done in an Autism Center, a school for special needs or in a regular inclusive school with the help of a facilitator and a team of educators who know about Autism or are willing to learn about Autism. These people can help take care of the child and as well help to build on their skills and potentials.
Parents and guardians should understand that no two children with Autism have the same problem and that each child has his or her own special skill and potential that needs a bit of time and various therapies to help build up on it. Building up on the communication skills and potentials, gives them a great chance and opportunity to live a true happy life in the society.
Autism is sometimes understood not to be a disability but rather a different ability and this is because of how incredible some of the kids can perform well on the potentials when they get the necessary skills and training.
Various therapies needed for children with Autism includes;
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- ABA Therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis)
- Diet Therapy
- Sensory Integration Therapy
- Music Therapy
- Play Therapy
- The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Parent-Mediated Therapy
- Social Skills Therapy
RED FLAGS OR POSSSIBLE SIGNS OF AUTISM
The following red flags could be signs that a child should be assessed for Autism or a related communication disorder.
- The child does not babble or coo by 12 months of age.
- The child does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc) by 12 months of age.
- The child does not say single words by 16 months of age.
- The child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own (rather than just repeating what someone says to him of her) by the 24 months of age.
- The child has any loss of any language or social skill at the any age.
- At times, the child seems to be deaf and/or does not respond to his/her name.
- The child cannot explain what he/she wants.
- Language skills or speech are delayed and the child doesn’t follow directions.
- The child seems to hear sometimes but not others.
- The child doesn’t point or wave bye-bye and has poor eye contact.
- The child has odd movement patterns and does not know how to play with toys.
- The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional or throws intense or violent tantrums.
- The child doesn’t smile when smiled at.
- The child gets stuck on things over and over and cannot move on to other things.
- The child seems to prefer to play alone and is very independent for his/her age.
- The child gets things for him/herself only.
- The child seems to be in his/her own world or turn people out.
- The child is not interested in other children.
- The child walks on his/her toes very often.
- The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants.
- Child spends a lot of time lining up things or putting things in a certain order.
- Inappropriate gaze or eye contact
- Lack of warm joyful expression
- Lack of sharing interests
- Lack of response to contextual cues
- Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication
- Lack of playing with a variety of toys
- Unusual sensory exploration
- Lack of showing and giving during play
- Unusual Prosody or speaking in a sing song voice
- Using Persons hand as a tool
- Excessive Distress over removing objects
- Difficulty calming when distressed
- Abrupt shifts in emotional states
- Unresponsive to interactions
A child who has these challenges and as a result is not able to function in society as expected for his or her age, may have Autism and needs to be assessed.
HOW CHILDREN RESPOND TO THINGS AROUND THEM BETWEEN THE AGES OF 0-6 YEARS.
- 0-1year (observing and recognizing): The child focuses on pictures, images and colors, enjoys looking at picture books, distinguishes among pictures, and imitates gestures and actions.
- 1-2years (developing abilities): The child imitates actions and language, recognizes and identifies familiar objects in the picture book with adult assistance, and understands words and commands.
- 2-3years (promoting skills): The child chooses picture books by his or herself, names pictured objects and identifies several objects within one picture.
- 3-4years (curiosity and inquisitiveness): The child seeks information through why and how questions, learns both by observing and listening to explanation.
- 4-5years (developing creativity and intelligence): The child plays with words, mimicking and creating sounds, makes rhymes, recognizes many colors and describes pictures.
- 5-6years (promoting thinking): The child can talk confidently and clearly. He or she is curious about the naming of words.
HOW AUTISM AFFECTS A CHILD’S SENSES
Sight: Some children with Autism may not like bright lights and while other children with Autism might like them a lot.
Sound: Some children with Autism may not like loud noises while other children with Autism might like certain noises.
Smell: Some children with Autism may not like some smells while other children with Autism might like certain smell.
Touch: Some children with Autism may not like being touched. Other children with Autism might like being touched or like touching people and things a lot.
Taste: Some people with Autism may like to eat the same food every day. Other children with Autism might like lots of different foods.
HOW CAN INDIVIDUALS IN THE SOCIETY HELP CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
- Let’s accept children with Autism in our society and also help to protect their rights.
- Always give a helping hand to children with Autism, their families, caregivers and volunteers.
- Volunteer your time at the Autism Centre or any Special Needs School to help care for children living with Autism.
- Donation in terms of money, learning materials and other resources can be offered to support children with Autism.
- Always remember to say a word of prayer to support the lives of children living with Autism, their families, caregivers and volunteers.