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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

What is Autism?

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For us to help people become more aware of autism, it is important to clearly define what autism is so people can understand how significantly it impacts those with the diagnosis and those around them. The diagnostic criteria for autism can currently be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) and the International Classification of Disease: Diagnostic Criteria for Disease, tenth edition (ICD-10).

To receive a diagnosis of Autism, the symptoms need to be present before the age of 3. Below you will find descriptions of the three core characteristics of autism and how they impact individuals. Keep in mind when reading this that by identifying areas of difficulty we can then plan for intervention to address these areas. Interventions, especially those based on the science of behavior, learning and teaching called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), are extremely effective in helping individuals learn these skills that have not developed along the typical developmental trajectory.

Qualitative Impairments in Social Interactions
Successful social interactions require a person to use non-verbal communication strategies to augment communication, share interests, activities and emotions with peers, respond to the emotions of others, modulate behavior according to the social context, integrate social, emotional and communicative behavior, and share enjoyment, interests or achievements with other people.

A person with autism may display difficulty with some or all of these social behaviors. These impairments will cause difficulty interacting with peers and adults effectively which will decrease their opportunities to develop relationships and learn from others through interactions. Later in life, these difficulties may present problems on the job because social skills are important for working effectively with others.

Qualitative Abnormalities in Communication
Communication involves using spoken words and gestures to convey messages to a communicative partner, initiating and sustaining conversations, using a variety of appropriate grammar and syntax, and being able to imitate the communicative behavior of others to aide learning (i.e. use in make-believe play or social-imitative play).

Some individuals with autism may be unable to use verbal communication and will need to be taught to use an alternative or augmentative communication (AAC) system such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or a voice-output communication aide (VOCA). Others may have the ability to speak, but need to be taught to use their language in a functional way.

Individuals with autism may have difficulties initiating and maintaining conversations which will impact their ability to get their needs met and build relationships with others. Additionally, some individuals with autism use stereotyped of repetitive language or idiosyncratic language which can make it difficult for others to understand what they are saying.

Another difficulty which impacts individuals is impairments in the ability to imitate the communicative behavior of others which is the way in which people typically learn how to communicate. This can impede an individual’s ability to effectively learn communication skills.

Restricted, Repetitive and Stereotyped Patterns of Behavior, Interests and Activities
Individuals with autism may have preoccupations with stereotyped or restrictive patterns of interest that may be abnormal in content, focus or intensity. Preoccupations can impact an individual’s ability to interact with others, but they can also be used to connect with or teach the individual. For instance, if the individual is highly focused on a specific show or character a parent might use that interest to connect with them through engaging in conversations around that interest and teachers might use characters to make instructional materials more engaging.

Compulsive adherence to specific, non-functional routines and rituals is also seen in individuals with autism. This can cause difficulty because it may be difficult for the individual to deviate from these routines and rituals. For some individuals, if their routine is interrupted it may result in problem behavior or cause them to begin the routine again until it can be completed fully.

Some individuals with autism engage in stereotyped or repetitive motor movements such as hand or finger flapping, twisting, or complex whole body movements (i.e. rocking or spinning). When these behaviors are analyzed, it is usually determined that they serve a self-stimulatory function which means they are being engaged in to receive some type of stimulatory input such as visual, proprioceptive or vestibular.

The fourth type of behavior in this category is preoccupation with parts of objects or non-functional elements of play materials. This could be that the individual focuses their attention on one part of an object (i.e. the wheels of a car) or an element of an object (i.e. the feel or smell). These preoccupations can impede the individuals ability to interact with items or activities in a functional way.

Share the Knowledge to Spread Awareness
It is important to share information about autism with others so they can clearly understand what an individual with autism and their family may be experiencing. It is also important to remember and emphasize that the earlier we can intervene with individuals the more easily we will be able to address the difficulties they are having. Spread awareness of autism and the need for funding to help individuals access quality services and training for professionals to effectively meet the needs of students.

One Comment

  1. jeenasmith1 says:

    Children with Autism has communication and social problem, they can not participate in group talks with confidence and that makes them different from the other children.
    Symptoms can only  be seen when the child is more than 18 months.
    For knowing more about this disorder, go through this link:
    Reference: http://cluas.ie/children/autism/

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