"Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior." - wikipedia.

Autism can sometimes be referred to as a 'hidden' disability, because it shows no physical impairments and cannot be detected at birth. Instead, autism is something that becomes apparent as a child grows and develops. Important to remember is that autism is called a spectrum disorder, as the problem presents itself in a wide variety of combinations and ranges.

What are the symptoms?

There are many developmental delays which are characteristic of autism which present themselves before the age of 3.

  • By 6 months: No big smiles or warm, joyful expressions.
  • By 9 months: No back-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
  • By 12 months: Lack of response to name, no babbling or 'baby talk', no back-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
  • By 16 months: No spoken words.
  • By 24 months: No meaningful two-worded phrases that don't involve imitating or repeating.

In older children, signs of autism include:

  1. Lack of awareness when around people (solo play, not acknowledging other children in play)
  2. Does not seem to hear others talking to them.
  3. Lack of imagination.
  4. Repetitive actions (lining things up, stimming etc,.)

How does autism make life difficult?

People with autism are often restricted in life due to the struggles with dealing with flexibility. Their behavours can become obsessive, with a simple road works triggering a child who has become used to travelling a certain way to school. These behavious can also become antisocial, such as spending an obsessive amount of time arranging toys, becoming preocupied with one topic and becoming unusually attached to objects; all of which can make it difficult for the child with autism to befriend others.

What's stimming?

Stimming is a repetitive action that children, or hypersensitive people, carry out to get sensry feedback and stimulate themselves. Stimming can include finger flicking, noises, hand clapping, spinning, tensing muscles, lining things up.

Witnessing a child stim can seem strange and odd, one of the many reasons that autism is a disorder associated with social problems. The decision to stop or encourage stimming is widley debated among the autism community. Some people feel that such behaviours should be discouraged in order to help the child becomes accepted by society; and some people feel that stimming is to be encouraged, as the child does so in an attempt to feel calm and secure.

So, what causes autism?

Highly debated is the question “What causes autism?”. Unitl recently, it was believed that autism was genetic. But new research has shown that environmental factors may also contribute. Prenatal facotrs include taking antidepressants during pregnancy, exposure to chemicals, complications at birth, and nutritional defeciancies. It is also said that certain vaccines can cause autism, though research continues.

How do you help those with autism?

Listening, patience and dedication are vital when working with autistic children. These children see life differently than you or I. At times, sounds places and visuals may seem different and scary.

There are many specialist equipment that can be used, such as sensory toys like cushions, squishy toys, playdough etc,. The use of sensory rooms are also helpful. This is a place where a child's senses can be stimulated with balls, lights, tactiles, etc,.

Whatever the cause of autism, it is important to remember that autism is not just a diagnosed disorder, it is most importantly, a way of life.


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