WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism is a developmental disability that effects a person’s ability to properly understand what they see, hear, and otherwise sense.
Autism primarily affects communication. People with autism typically have difficulty understanding verbal and nonverbal communication and learning appropriate ways of relating to people and, objects, and events. Autism spectrum disorders are the third most common developmental disability following mental retardation and epilepsy. One in every 66 American children has an autism spectrum disorder. Every day, 50 new families face a diagnosis of autism. One in every four American families has a loved one living with autism. It is four times more prevalent in males than females. Autism occurs in all races and socioeconomic classes. Family income, lifestyle, or education do not affect whether or not a child will be born with autism.
What are the Characteristics of Austism?
Characteristics may differ markedly from person to person, but will usually include the following:
Severe deviations in language development - Language is slow to develop and usually includes peculiar speech patterns or the use of words without attaching them to their normal meaning. They may not understand what you say.
Severe deviations in understanding social relationships - Children with autism may not use eye contact in social interactions, may resist being picked up, and seem to “tune out” the world. This results in an inability to play with others and an impaired ability to make friends. They may dart away from you unexpectedly.
Inconsistent patterns of sensory responses - The child may appear to be deaf and fail to respond to words and sounds. They may be unable to speak or speak with difficulty. At other times, a child may be extremely distressed by everyday noises such as a vacuum cleaner or dog barking. The child may show an insensitivity to pain and lack of responsiveness to cold or heat, or may overreact to any of these. They may act upset for no apparent reason, or appear anxious and nervous.
Uneven patterns of intellectual functioning - The majority of people with autism have varying degrees of mental retardation. Only 25% of people with autism have near-average, average, or above average intelligence. However, some may have peak skills - scattered things done quite well in relation to overall functioning - such as drawing, math, music, or memorization of facts.
Marked restriction of activity and interests - A person with autism may perform repetitive body movements or self-stimulating behaviors such as hand flicking, twisting, rocking, or spinning. This person may also display repetition by following the same schedule everyday, same route, same order of dressing, etc. If changes occur in these routines, the child may become upset.
HELPFUL HINTS for interacting with someone who has autism:
Speak slowly and use simple language
Use concrete terms
Repeat simple questions
Allow time for responses
Give lots of praise
Do not attempt to physically block self-stimulating behavior
Remember that each individual with autism is unique and may act differently than others