Understanding Autism

Discussion in 'Parenting' started by vinceneilsgirl, Jun 7, 2006.

  1. Understanding Autism

    Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. A result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain especially in the areas related to social interaction and communications skills.

    The condition traditionally called "autism" is part of a set of five closely related conditions which all share symptoms and fall under the broad diagnostic umbrella of "Pervasive Developmental Disorders." They each share three primary symptoms of impaired social interaction, impaired communication, and characteristic behavior patterns. Following is a brief summary of the conditions:

    Autistic Disorder -- occurs in males four times more than females and involves moderate to severe disturbances in communication, socialization and behavior.

    Rett's Disorder -- diagnosed primarily in females who exhibit typical development until approximately 18 months when children begin to regress especially in terms of motor skills and loss of abilities in other areas. A key indicator of Rett's Disorder is the appearance of repetitive meaningless movements or gestures.

    Childhood Disintegrative Disorder -- involves a clear regression in multiple areas of functioning including motor skills, bladder control and social skills following two years of normal development.

    Asperger's Disorder -- typically diagnosed later in life than other disorders on the spectrum, persons with Asperger's Disorder usually function in the average to above average intelligence range and have no delays in language skills. Deficits appear most often in the areas of social skills, concentration and coordination.

    Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified -- includes children that do not fully meet the criteria for the other specific disorders or those that do not have the degree of impairment associated with those disorders.


    Individuals with autism interact with others differently. They often appear to live a life of isolation, have difficulty understanding and expressing emotion, and may express attachment in a different manner.

    Approximately 40 percent of individuals with autism do not speak. Others have echolalia, a parrot-like repeating of what has been said to them. Persons with autism often have difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone and volume).

    Individuals with autism typically have difficulty relating to objects and events and a great need for "sameness" which makes them upset if objects in their environment or time schedules change. Children with autism may not "play" with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated to specific objects.

    Persons with autism may greatly overreact to sensory stimuli that they see, hear, touch, feel or taste. They may also not react at all to various stimuli from the environment.

    Children with autism often have a different rate of development especially in the areas of communication, social and cognitive skills. In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate. Sometimes skills will appear in children with autism at the expected rate or time and then disappear.

    Autism is a lifelong disability that is generally diagnosed before the age of three years old. However, often children are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until later in life.

    Common Interventions and Treatments

    A basic rule for treating autism is the earlier the intervention, the better. Coordinated, structured services that take into account the "whole person" and the person's family are most likely to be successful. Locate an Easter Seals near you for services in your area.


    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques teach appropriate behaviors while attempting to reduce problem behaviors. These techniques focus on teaching small, measurable components of behavior in a systematic manner utilizing principles of reinforcement to help make learning fun.


    Speech therapy includes specialized therapeutic services designed to assist individuals with autism in verbal and non-verbal communication development.

    Picture Exchange Communication System is a functional communication training approach that emphasizes teaching students to give a picture of something they desire to another person in exchange for that item.

    Facilitated communication is a technique that requires that a trained professional support the hand, arm or shoulder of a person with communication impairments to help them either press keys of a communication device or write out desired words.

    Augmentative Devices includes communication aids such as electronic devices that are often used to support communication.

    Sign includes programs that teach sign language to individuals with autism who have had difficulty developing speech.

    Social Skills

    P.L.A.Y. Project (Play and Learning for Autistic Youth): A parent coaching model that teaches parents how to engage and interact with their child with autism. Beginning at the level of the child, a parent connects and helps their child learn to interact under the guidance and coaching of a trained professional P.L.A.Y. consultant.

    Social Skills Training - A variety of diverse training techniques that may assist persons with autism in learning to recognize social cues, communicate in social situations, or demonstrate the ability to walk. As with other treatments, this training will vary depending on the individual need.

    Social Stories - a technique that presents appropriate social behaviors in the form of the story. The goal is to help persons by teaching them to take the perspective of other people in given situations.

    Contact for Help and Information

    Autism Society of America
    ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact. The Society and its chapters share a common mission of providing information and education, and supporting research and advocating for programs and services for the autism community.

    Cure Autism Now
    Cure Autism Now (CAN) is an organization of parents, clinicians and leading scientists committed to accelerating the pace of biomedical research in autism through raising money for research projects, education and outreach.

    Asperger and Autism Information by MAAP Services, Inc.
    A global information and support network for more advanced persons with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

    Centers for Disease Control: Learn the signs. Act early.
    Visit the "Learn the Signs. Act Early." website for information about childhood developmental milestones and delays. You'll be able to track the developmental milestones your child should be reaching, see how milestones change as your child grows, and download fact sheets on developmental milestones for children from 3 months to 5 years, along with information on developmental screening and developmental disabilities.

    Dude111 likes this.
  2. homeschoolmama

    homeschoolmama Senior Member

    Thank you so much!!! This will help a lot with the autistic kids I work with mid-week, and might help me learn to understand my own son better :)
  3. YoMama

    YoMama Member

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