A is for Autism

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that can be diagnosed during early childhood and is characterized by three major signs/symptoms:

1. communication problems
2. problems with social interaction
3. repetitive, restricted and stereotyped behaviors

There are different types and range of autism according to DSM IV-TR or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Classical autism is considered as “severe” because of the inability of children diagnosed with this as having no or low eye contact, facial expression and use of gestures and body language to communicate, among other characteristics. Spoken language is severely delayed or not developed at all. There is a preoccupation to one object or part of that object like a certain toy car’s wheel.

If a child has very delayed or showed no attempts with communicating with others, it is best that he/she is brought to a specialist.

Autism spectrum disorder or ASD on the other hand is considered a “milder” form of autism. A child diagnosed with ASD has the ability to develop his/her language, self-help and cognitive skills but needs help in several areas of development like: developing social interactions, adjusting to changes in routine and rituals, emotional reciprocity and being able to share interests with peers.

PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Other Specified is a diagnosis that cuts across the two previously mentioned conditions. DSM IV-TR lists that: PDD-NOS is a type of childhood developmental disorder which forms part of the group of Autistic Spectrum disorders. (ASD) This group also includes Classical Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. The diagnosis of PDD-NOS is one of exclusion, made when a toddler or child clearly has a Pervasive Developmental Disorder but the symptoms and signs do not comply with the Diagnostic Criteria for any of the other ASD’s (or childhood psychiatric disorders).

Autism and Communication

Children with autism have difficulties in talking to or expressing themselves using words the way other children do. There are those who usually “keep to themselves” and are able to communicate with devices.

These children can’t usually “connect” or easily understand the underlying language symbolisms which include non-verbal language cognition and the more advanced skills like pragmatics and listening. They usually respond to short and easily understandable instructions rather than long complicated ones. Their names will be called but they do not look at the person calling them.

They react differently in situations like when there’s a thunderstorm or a certain part of a tv/radio commercial or song being played.

Social Interaction

Due to these children’s difficulties in communicating with others, they have a hard time making friends, start conversations and “get” the humor behind jokes.

Repetitive, Restricted and/or Stereotyped Behavior

They thrive in routine like putting socks on the right foot first and not the other way around. They do repetitive behavior like banging or clapping. In some of those classified as having classical autism, these children manifest hand-flapping, rocking back and forth, turning things around over and over among other things.

The number used to be much bigger but these days, it is said that autism affects 1 child in every 150 children.

Scientists are still baffled as to the cause of this condition for one because of the complexity of the human brain.. Some believe that some of the brain connections that have something to do with communication, emotions and certain behaviors affecting social interactions do not develop as it should.

There are instances of sibling or cousins with autism.

How to Deal with Autism

Getting a diagnosis of autism is one thing. Getting the proper help to be able to have a breakthrough in the behavior of these children diagnosed with autism is another thing.

When to get the diagnosis is also important: the earlier the intervention, the better. There is such a thing called Early Intervention where the children diagnosed with autism undergo through a series of intervention that aim to develop the skills needed to be able to decrease behavioral patterns that are symptoms of the condition.

There are many options in terms of intervention procedures available for parents and caregivers in terms of getting help for their children.

Behavioral interventions. Behavioral intervention can be given in different ways: structured, skill-oriented, intensive and practical training sessions to help develop the social and language skills are needed primarily because autism symptoms are manifested through their behavior.

Occupational, speech and language as well as physical therapies are needed to consolidate the need to approach the behavior manifestations that need to be addressed in the same manner.

Learning to talk is one of the first important things to develop as is learning to listen and follow instructions.

Social skills like waiting, sitting still and observing basic social skills for social interactions are also taught.

Self-help skills like a daily routine upon waking up till sleep time and even understanding garmin nuvi gps for those learning to drive or waiting at the bus stop for those who commute are also a few of those skills being given as intervention. They need to learn real life skills in order to be independent.

Family counseling for the parents and family is also needed to help in coping with the challenges of living with a child diagnosed with autism.

Medications are prescribed to those who exhibit autism-related symptoms like anxiety, depression and obsessive – compulsive behavior. Those with behavioral problems are given medications too. It is best to consult with a doctor first before giving any type of medication for children with autism.

Dietary considerations are being adapted by parents though caution should be practiced to avoid compromising the nutritional status.

Regular school. Those who have manageable and mild autism can go to a regular school. These school should have an orderly atmosphere where the teachers understand their conditions and are able to deal with them properly in terms of learning and socializing with others.

For parents with children diagnosed with autism, be inspired with the lives of Temple Grandin and Eric Duquette

This entry was posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011 at 9:19 pm and is filed under Autism, behavior modification, Being a (Special Ed) Teacher, Challenge Yourself, Language Development, special education, Teaching Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Dec, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

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