What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disability that affects normal development. It is a “spectrum disorder” because its impact on development can range from mild to severe. The areas of development most affected are social interaction and communication skills, difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, and leisure play. Current statistics estimate that autism affects 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys, 1 in 189 girls) in the US alone.

A person with autism may show signs of the following characteristics:

  • Be non-verbal or have very limited verbal abilities.
  • Resist change.
  • Use gestures to express needs rather than words.
  • Exhibit inappropriate laughing or giggling.
  • Cry for no apparent reason.
  • Repeat words/phrases instead of giving a normal response.
  • Prefer to be alone.
  • Have difficulty mixing with others.
  • Have tantrums—display extreme distress for no apparent reason.
  • Make little or no eye contact.
  • Be sensitive to touch, not like hugging/cuddling.
  • Not respond to normal teaching methods.
  • Obsessively attach to objects.
  • Show no real fear or sense of danger.
  • Be over- or under-sensitive to pain.
  • Have awkward gross/fine motor skills.
  • Not respond to verbal cues (as if deaf).
  • Be sensitive to sound, or bright lights.
  • Exhibit self-stimulating behavior: hand flapping, finger flicking, and body rocking.
  • Not be able to make eye contact.
  • Become anxious in new situations.
  • Not understand consequences of actions.
  • Have difficulty remembering facts or details of circumstances.

Helpful Hints for Interactions with Individuals with ASD 

  • Use simple language; speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use concrete terms and ideas.
  • Repeat simple questions, allowing time (10-15 seconds) for a response.
  • Proceed slowly; give praise and encouragement.
  • Do not attempt to stop self-stimulating behavior physically.

Remember: Each individual with autism is unique and may act or react differently!

 Information compiled from the Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks websites, and other sources.

Most common autism questions:

WHAT IS AUTISM?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological (brain) disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. Individuals with autism typically have difficulty understanding verbal and/or nonverbal communication, and learning appropriate ways of relating to other people, objects, and events. As its name implies, ASD is a “spectrum” disorder that affects individuals differently and with varying degrees of severity. No two people with ASD are the same. “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.”

WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?

We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and non-genetic, or environmental, influences.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH AN AUTISITIC CHILD’S “BEHAVIORS” SUCH AS MELTDOWNS?

Before we can effectively deal with any child’s behavior, it’s important to first focus on the root cause of the behavior. Behavior is communication. A child’s behavior always tries to tell us something and is a direct response to what is happening to him and/or in his environment. Collect information on what happened right before, during, and after a “behavior” in order to determine whether the reason is sensory or medically related, avoidance, a desire for something tangible, or attention seeking. Once we know the root cause, we can either remedy the root cause in case of sensory or health related issues, and help the child find an appropriate and effective way to communicate their feelings and emotions.

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