Children with Autism

February 2, 2015
 

Imagine finding the sound of ocean waves painful enough to make you scream, having anything touching your skin, including clothes, unbearable, or having something out of place in your house completely unravel you. These are among the myriad challenges that many children with autism endure every day.

 

Autism is known as a spectrum disorder. That is, autism has a group of symptoms that can range from mild to severe, and there are also differences in the nature of the symptoms and when they can appear. While the severity, onset and appearance of Autism Spectrum Disorders vary greatly, there are three core deficit areas found in all affected individuals: social interaction and atypical behavior.

 

Some children may not speak at all, while others talk to themselves for hours on end.  Some children rarely interact with other people, while others are inclined to have constant, but nonconforming interactions. Some kids require strict routines, others exhibit repetitive movements like hand-flapping or rocking, while still others are fixated on objects, subjects or sensory stimulation. In a nutshell, each child with autism is affected differently than the next child who has the disorder.

 

Within the category of ASD, there are several subtypes:

 

1) Autism is the disorder that has received the most study and has been recognized for the longest time. It is defined by the presence of difficulties in each of the three areas listed above, with onset in at least one area by age 3 years. It may or may not be associated with language delays or mental retardation.

 

2) Asperger Syndrome is a form of ASD that is often identified later (e.g., after age 3, usually after age 5) and is associated with the social symptoms of autism and some repetitive interests or behaviors, but not with language delay or mental retardation. Many parents and professionals use this term with older and/or more verbally fluent individuals with autism because they feel it is less stigmatizing.

 

3) Rett Syndrome and Child Disintegrative Disorder are both very rare, severe forms of ASD that have particular patterns of onset, and, in the case of Rett Syndrome, a specific genetic basis.

 

4) Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a form of ASD used to describe individuals who meet criteria for autism in terms of social difficulties but not in both communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors. It can also be used for children who do not have clearly defined difficulties under age 3 or later. Professionals often use this term when they are not quite sure of a diagnosis or when the symptoms are mild. Several epidemiological studies have reported that as many or more children have PDD-NOS or less clear symptoms as have classic autism. The difficulties of children and adults with Asperger Syndrome or PDD-NOS are similar, and milder than those of individuals with autism, suggesting that these distinctions are fairly arbitrary and should not be used to limit services or benefits.

 

1) Autistic disorder, also known as classic autism, and the most common among the ASDs. Here you will find major delays in language, difficulties with social interactions, and unusual behaviors. There may also be impaired intellectual abilities.
 

2) Asperger syndrome, which differs from autistic disorder because children with this typically do not experience delays in language or have intellectual impairment, but instead might exhibit social disorders or unusual behavior.

 

3) Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), where individuals show may show mild impairment in language and social skills.

 

According to Karen Thompson, a parent of a child with ASD who volunteers Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.org), 1 out of every 110 children is diagnosed with ASD – 1 of every 70 boys. There is a ratio of almost 4 boys affected for every girl, and the number of children diagnosed each year is on the increase. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the early signs and symptoms, because the earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis. In fact, symptoms can start being recognized in infants who are as young as six months.

 

Symptoms to look for:
 

  • Difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction

  • Do not interact and will avoid eye contact in a normal way

  • May seem indifferent to other people, and prefer being alone

  • Inability to interpret gestures and facial expressions

  • Difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective

  • Difficulty regulating their emotions

  • A tendency to “lose control”, particularly when they're in a strange or overwhelming environment

  • May bang their heads, pull their hair or bite their arms
     

To learn more about autism visit: www.autismspeaks.org.

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