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.