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.