January 14, 2010

What is Autism?

According to Autism Speaks, 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys are affected by autism. Autism is a  developmental disorder that encompasses a wide spectrum, from very mild to severe, so it affects every child differently, but there are three main characteristics that most autistic children share. These are:
·      Social interaction
        Children with autism cannot understand social cues the way most of us do. They have trouble starting or maintaining conversation with others and often don't know how to respond when people approach them or engage them. They may interact in “odd” ways, such as repeating the words verbatim of the person they are talking with. They may also have sensory issues that affect their behavior, such as aversions to loud noises, certain textures of clothing, or having paint or dirt on their hands.
·      Language development
        All children with autism have language difficulties. Some do not speak at all while others may be talkative but struggle to communicate clearly. A lag in language development in young children is often the first sign that there is a problem. They may have trouble forming grammatically correct sentences or formulating answers to simple questions. Abstract thought and verbal expression are difficult.
·      Repetitive behaviors or fixations
        Children with autism may fixate on objects or topics of interest, such as dinosaurs or trains, and be unable to play with them appropriately or leave the object or topic when needed. They may also exhibit “self-stimulating” behaviors, such as arm flapping or twirling in circles, as a means of self-calming. Because of this tendency to fixate, they may exhibit strengths related to certain topics, such as math or computers.