A Boy and His Special Dog

Oakland has a soft mouth and Jeffery is learning how to hold a rope toy.

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Definition: a complex developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction; other characteristics include unusual response to sensory experiences, repetitive behaviors, and resistance to change; considered a spectrum disorder with wide range of abilities and disabilities.

Statistics: affects 1 in 68 children; males affected four to five times more often than females (CDCP, 2012).

Cause: unknown though genetics, environmental toxins and birth injuries have been implicated.

For a child with autism some of the common deficits/issues include-

  • Impaired communication skills–may not speak or have very limited skills, may use sign language, often better with visual learning.

  • Impaired social abilities–may be uncomfortable around others, not understand routine social cues, not show empathy, etc.

  • Impaired response to sensory stimuli–may be over or under sensitive to touch, smells, sights and sounds.

  • Wide range of IQ on autism spectrum with 33%-75% in impaired range (depending on types of testing done) with related deficits of comprehension, memory, attention, problem solving, planning and judgment.

  • Tendency to wander with no awareness of potential dangers.

  • Other behavior issues/problems may include passivity, impulsivity, distractibility and/or narrow obsessive focus, aggression, tantrums and attempts to injure self or others. May also have repetitive behaviors such as flapping hands, rocking and/or spinning.

  • Problem behaviors may be exacerbated or triggered by changes in routine or when a child is overwhelmed with stimuli or fatigue.

  • Other common issues include sleep problems, seizures, GI disorders, pica and poor muscle tone.

Some facts for children who have association with a child with autism (CWA) -

  • They are children with feelings too.

  • You can’t catch autism.

  • To date, there is no cure.

  • The brain of a child with autism works a bit differently so it may be hard for him/her to understand words; or normal sounds may be too loud; or normal touch may be uncomfortable.

  • Sometimes a child with autism may do things like spinning or flapping hands if he/she is upset or uncomfortable.

  • Children with autism can learn, but may need special help.

  • Children with autism may have trouble making friends but still need friends.

  • Children with autism may not know how to play and need help to learn.

  • May take a child with autism longer to do a task, so others need to be patient.

  • Children with autism may not talk like you but can still communicate.

  • Talking in shorter sentences, repeating and using pictures may be helpful.

  • Any change in schedule/routine can be upsetting.


Frequently Asked Questions