Sunday, January 26, 2014

Autism... Hmmmnn (Cont)


We are still on the introduction to autism. From the last article, we have been told that autism affects communication, social skill and behaviour; but how exactly? How can we tell that a child has autism? Let’s get into that...
Many parents of children living with autism have said that they started wondering if something was wrong with their child when he/she did not talk on time or maybe the child was even talking initially and lost speech. Delayed speech or loss of speech often times serves as the red flag which points a parent’s attention to the difference between the child and other children his/her age. Basically, people with autism have challenges with verbal or non-verbal communication. It is said that words make only about 7% of communication. Tone and body language are said to make up the rest of the 93%. A child with autism has challenges reading the tone of communication, gesture or facial expressions and even understanding the words spoken to him/her. A person with autism may find it difficult to participate in a conversation, even if he/she has speech. There are other communication challenges. For example, echolalia (repeating what others say) is a common behaviour among children with autism. Also children with autism will rather take a person’s hand to what they want instead of pointing to it. The child may look at a pointed finger or hand and not the object being pointed at. The communication challenges experienced by individuals living with autism have been described as a man being in a strange land, where the people speak a different language. It’s not his fault that he does not understand what the people are saying.
 A person living with autism also has challenges in social interactions. It’s common to find a child with autism staying apart from other children or not playing with the other kids around. They often seem to avoid interaction with others. They are often indifferent or unaware of the people around. A child with autism will most likely avoid eye contact and may not return a smile, when smiled at. Children with autism do not understand social norms or unstated social laws. So a child with autism may not understand the need for personal space by others and so may stand too close to others or approach another person spontaneously. They do not understand turn-taking or the need to share, so a child with autism may not share toys with other children.
People with autism show different odd behaviours. And these behaviours differ for different people on the spectrum, but they are repetitive. Hand flapping, jumping, body rocking or head rolling are common behaviours found in children living with autism. Some children with autism may appear to be obsessed with stacking objects or arranging objects in a line. Many children with autism are resistant to change. They may want to follow a daily routine or a particular dressing ritual. For example, if a child is used to wearing his right shoe first, he may strongly refuse to wear the left first. Some may insist that the furniture be kept where it is or may refuse to stop an activity until they are done with that activity. Also some children with autism may focus on an activity or object of interest, such as a toy, game, a TV program or even a subject of interest. A child may be so interested only in dinosaurs, a particular animal, science, mathematics, literature, music, any possible subject. Other odd behaviours may include toe walking, poor muscle tone, or poor motor planning. A child may show unusual eating behaviours; some are selective in choice of foods, or may refuse to eat. Also some children with autism may be very sensitive to sounds or what they see or may seem insensitive. It’s common to find some children with autism covering their ears as a result of their high sensitivity to sounds. Some children with autism are not afraid of danger and may show high pain threshold. They may also show some injurious behaviours such as hand biting, head banging, eye poking, and skin biting. According to Wikipedia, in 2007, there was a report that injurious behaviour occurred in about 30% of children on the spectrum. Children with autism also have challenges with pretend play or imagination. So the child may not be able to pretend that a doll is a baby or that there’s someone on the other end of the line when given a toy or inactive phone.

In another article, we will discuss the early signs of autism in children. But watch this space for more info on autism... Thank you for reading.