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Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Autism)


Those with autism have a developmental disorder which affects social communication and impairs the ability to relate well to others. Children and young people with autism often show little curiosity or imagination and frequently seem uninterested or indifferent.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) on a Continuum

ASDs lie on a continuum where children and young people are affected to different degrees. Those with autism often have learning difficulties whilst those with Asperger Syndrome will often have a high IQ. There are approximately four times more males than females with ASDs.

Isolated Areas of Ability

In some cases, those with ASDs will have isolated areas of ability. These areas of ability will often be considerably more advanced than the child or young person’s general level of development.

Also, many may develop obsessions.

Characteristics

Key areas which characterise ASDs include, communication, social interaction, poor flexibility of thinking or imagination and sensory difficulties.

Communication

There is likely to be a delay in processing information and problems with verbal and non-verbal communication. This might include incessant talking regardless of others and a literal understanding of language.

Social Interaction

During social interaction there are likely to be difficulties when,

  • Managing or structuring free time
  • A lack of awareness regarding respect or politeness
  • Appropriately making and managing relationships

Poor Flexibility of Thinking or Imagination

Poor flexibility of thinking or imagination presents when the child or young person is not aware of what might occur if a plan doesn’t happen. S/he has what is termed an underdeveloped ‘theory of mind;’ that is, the individual has difficulty realising others maybe thinking differently to her or himself. S/he may have difficulty empathising with others too and, in order to manage stress and anxiety, has a great need for predictability and order.

Sensory Difficulties

Sensory difficulties present when an individual reacts disproportionately to sound, sight, touch, smell or taste. S/he may also have difficulty managing fine and gross motor skills.

Language

A child or young person with ASDs may,

  • Use limited and repetitive language along with pedantic speech
  • Talk obsessively about one topic: his collection of Lego building bricks

S/he may,

  • Echo the speech of others rather than responding appropriately
  • Rely on situations rather than words for meaning
  • Interpret speech in a very literal way

Generally speaking, her or his verbal skills disguise a lack of comprehension.

Behaviour and Actions

Here a child or young person may,

  • Display bizarre behaviour and mannerisms
  • Have poor eye contact
  • Often not answer when spoken to
  • Be unable to empathise with others when they were upset or hurt
  • Play with objects in a ritualistic way
  • Prefer activities with a repetitive mechanical process

S/he may also,

  • Lack awareness of common dangers; for example, deep water at his local swimming pool or a glowing piece of wood that had fallen from a bonfire
  • Resist any change in routine which could result in him displaying inappropriate behaviour

Autism cannot be seen in isolation from the emotional, social and psychological impact it has upon the individual and family as a whole.

I must be considered within the whole context of functioning and its impact upon the process of learning.

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