What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. People on the autistic spectrum struggle to understand and relate to other people. This can cause them considerable anxiety. The development of the child with autism is frequently uneven with areas of strength alongside areas of difficulty. Strengths may lie in memory or attention to detail. Areas of difficulty are typically those concerning instinctive social behaviour and communication, repetitive behaviours or narrow interests, use of language and difficulties with abstract or ambiguous concepts. Individuals with autism may be of low, average or high IQ.
About a third to a half of individuals with autism do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs. Differences in communication may be present from the first year of life, and may include delayed onset of babbling and unusual gestures.
The condition persists into adulthood but with appropriate intervention and individualised support, many can utilise their strengths and lead very successful lives. For others, many of the more disabling aspects of the condition improve over time although a number will continue to need support and understanding throughout their lives.
The word ‘Spectrum’ is used because every person is affected differently while sharing three main areas of difficulty. These three areas are; Difficulty with social communication, Difficulty with social interaction, and difficulty with social imagination.
It is suggested that Autism is present in 1 in 100 males in the UK.
For people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, body language can be extremely hard for them to read. They have difficulty with both verbal and non verbal language. Many have a very literal view of the language and therefore take what people say as the exact truth, making something like sarcasm very hard for them to grasp. This can make social interaction hard.
Taking part in everyday family and social life is something we take for granted, as it is intuitive to most people and we do not have to think about it, to someone on the autistic spectrum it can become more of a chore to interact with family and peers than an enjoyment.
Social interaction will have to be learnt, it will not come naturally. This means it can be difficult for an autistic person to form friendships. It is difficult for them to recognise other peoples emotions or feelings or even there own. This results in time spent alone and it can sometimes be seem as ‘strange’ or ‘naughty’ behaviour.
Our imagination is what allows us to have abstract ideas, therefore we are able to imagine something that we are unable to see in front of us. Someone with Autism will find this very hard to do which means they can struggle with,
- Unfamiliar situations
- Understand certain concepts such as danger
- Role Play
Most people with autism prefer to have fixed routines, the world can appear very unpredictable to them. It is hard for them to take change into there stride, it is best to give an advanced warning to prevent anxiety or a loss of control.
Visual Timetables are the most effective way to present the routine ahead of them. ASD Visual Aids is designed to aid children in their day to day routine, it allows for the child to see what it is you are asking them to do and what is coming next. This reduces anxieties and therefore for children will show less unsociable, desirable behaviour.
Sensory Sensitivity can sometimes be an issue for someone on the spectrum. They can become hypersensitive to sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. These things can become unbearably loud or distracting causing anxiety.
Then there are special interests that many autistic people can develop, often from a very young age and sometimes these interests stay with them through out life. They tend to become very engrossed in there special interest, however finding out what it is can be a good starting point for communication when needed.
Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children with autism. The situation that may be causing concern, e.g. taking turns, sitting quietly on the carpet, or even lining up at play time, can be addressed through this method very efficiently. The situation is described in detail in the story with the use of visual aids. The actions that are expected of the child are included in the story.
The goal is to increase the child’s understanding and awareness of the situation in question and suggest an appropriate response to the situation.
What causes autism?
The exact cause of autism is still being investigated. However, research suggests that a combination of factors - genetic and environmental - may account for changes in brain development.
Autism is not caused by a person’s upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual with the condition.
Autism still has no certain causes, but it is suggested that it is to do with genetics and environmental factors.
Although many children on the Autistic Spectrum struggle with many aspects of social communication, interaction and imagination, working with them continually can help improve on these skills as some children can learn these skills over time. Every child deserves the best possible support!!