What Is Autism?
Autism is a brain disorder that limits a person’s ability to communicate and relate to other people. It first appears in young children, who fall along a spectrum from mild to severe. Some people can navigate their world, some have exceptional abilities, while others struggle to speak. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect about one child in 68, striking nearly five times as many boys as girls.
Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment. ASD ranges in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.
Children with autism have trouble communicating. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.
A child with ASD who is very sensitive may be greatly troubled — sometimes even pained — by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to others.
Children who are autistic may have repetitive, stereotyped body movements such as rocking, pacing, or hand flapping. They may have unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change in their routines, or aggressive or self-injurious behavior. At times they may seem not to notice people, objects, or activities in their surroundings. Some children with autism may also developseizures. And in some cases, those seizures may not occur until adolescence.
Some people with autism are cognitively impaired to a degree. In contrast to more typical cognitive impairment, which is characterized by relatively even delays in all areas of development, people with autism show uneven skill development. They may have problems in certain areas, especially the ability to communicate and relate to others. But they may have unusually developed skills in other areas, such as drawing, creating music, solving math problems, or memorizing facts. For this reason, they may test higher — perhaps even in the average or above-average range — on nonverbal intelligence tests.
Symptoms of autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth. Others seem to develop normally at first, only to slip suddenly intosymptoms when they are 18 to 36 months old. However, it is now recognized that some individuals may not show symptoms of a communication disorder until demands of the environment exceed their capabilities. Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. It knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, or educational levels do not affect a child’s chance of being autistic.
Autism is said to be increasing; however, it is not entirely clear whether the increase is related to changes in how it is diagnosed or whether it is a true increase in the incidence of the disease.
Autism is just one syndrome that now falls under the heading of autism spectrum disorders. Previous disorders that are now classified under the umbrella diagnosis of ASD or a social communication disorder include:
- Autistic disorder. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “autism.” It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
- Asperger’s syndrome. These children don’t have a problem with language — in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children with autistic disorder.
- Pervasive developmental disorder or PDD — also known as atypical autism.This is a kind of catch-all category for children who have some autistic behaviors but who don’t fit into other categories.
- Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children develop normally for at least two years and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills. This is an extremely rare disorder and its existence as a separate condition is a matter of debate among many mental health professionals.
Rett syndrome previously fell under ASD spectrum but it is now confirmed that Rett’s cause is genetic. It no longer falls under ASD guidelines. Children with Rett syndrome, primarily girls, start developing normally but then begin losing their communication and social skills. Beginning at the age of 1 to 4 years, repetitive hand movements replace purposeful use of the hands. Children with Rett syndrome are usually severely cognitively impaired.
Signs of Autism
Before a child turns three, careful observers can see signs of autism. Some children develop normally until 18-24 months old and then stop or lose skills. Signs of an ASD can include:
- Repeated motions (rocking or spinning)
- Avoiding eye contact or physical touch
- Delays in learning to talk
- Repeating words or phrases (echolalia)
- Getting upset by minor changes
It’s important to note that these signs can occur in children without ASDs, too.
Other Signs and Symptoms
People with autism sometimes may have physical symptoms, including digestive problems such as constipation and sleep problems. Children may have poor coordination of the large muscles used for running and climbing, or the smaller muscles of the hand. About a third of people with autism also have seizures.
Local school systems may provide special services to help a child with autism learn and develop. This can include speech therapy and occupational therapy. Schools are required to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each child. Children with autism may qualify for early intervention or extended school year services. If you are concerned about your child, be an advocate and ask the school to develop an IEP.
I know most people would think all i do is research and write. Some would actually say ‘She doesn’t know anything about autism’. well i really don’t know about it that’s why i try to know by reading but i do understand the feeling a parent of an autistic child.
I just want to tell every mother who has an autistic child that it’s not your fault and it’s neither the fault of the child. You just have to love that child the same way you love the rest of your children. One important thing you need to note is, don’t make that child feel left out. i know by nature, most of them prefer being alone. When you notice any of the above symptoms or others you might have researched on early or late, its best you get that child a psychologist instead of locking him/her up in the room often. This days we have psychologist who specialize in helping children that are autistic. There are also wonderful schools that attend to children with special needs. Here are top 5 schools that attend to children with special needs.
1.Modupe Cole Memorial Childcare and Treatment Home
2. Benola – Benola is a Not for Profit Organization committed to change and progress for persons living with Cerebral Palsy.
3. C.A.D.E.T. Academy – C.A.D.E.T. Academy is a research & evidence-based special needs education & learning program located in Abuja, Nigeria but serves a global community.
4. The Zamarr Institute
5. Patrick Speech and Languages Centre
There are other schools but i only choose to write 5… Kudos to parents with autistic children because i know you are doing your best. for those of us yet to have children, I pray that all our children will be born without issues and for those of us who already have children, may they continue to make us happy and proud of them..
It’s all about you….never forget that.