Austism Specrum Disorders

What is autism?

Autism has varying degrees of severity, they are categorised into a range of disorders on the scale of autism spectrum disorders or ASD. Autism is a condition for life and while there is no cure, there are ways of managing the condition so that the condition has the least amount of impact on the life of the individual, family and carers.

Autism is a development disability, affecting many aspects of the life of the person who has the condition. This can be anything from simple daily tasks to more advanced forms of communication and ability to live independently. The diagnosis is made based on the severity of the condition and a plan is then put in place so that the person with the condition can be cared for.

We talk about a spectrum of disorders meaning that some people will share some difficulties with their condition affecting them in one way or another, perhaps with severe or mild learning difficulties, and may require lifelong support while others will be able to live independently with the knowledge of their condition and how to self-manage it. Those with autism may have sensitivity to sensory effects such as sound, light, touch, smell, taste and so on. Others, such as those who suffer with Asperger’s syndrome, may struggle with languages and social interaction but they may also be of average or above average intelligence.

Autism in children

Children diagnosed with autism may see the world as a jumble of people, events, places, things and may struggle to make of things from day to day. This can cause increase anxiety or fears when relating to or interacting with the world and the people in it. They may struggle with relationships and every day social interactions. Those children who are diagnosed with Autism, may be aware that they are different but may not understand why or why other people are not like them.

Children suffering with autism spectrum disorders may not appear to be unlike other people at first glance. They may not look disabled or different but their behaviour or ways of doing things may be different to other people. Before a diagnosis is made, some children may be labelled as ‘naughty’. This can be hurtful to the child, parent and other family members so be aware of these traits and do not judge children on their behaviour until you understand more about why they behave as they do.

What are the classic indicators?

As we already know, the spectrum is wide and the severity can vary from one child to the next. There are however, three key indicators that are used to determine the severity of autism spectrum disorders.

1. Difficulty communication in social situations. Language, both verbal and non-verbal can prove problematic for some children suffering with ASD. Body language may be as foreign as another language and they may take the literal meaning of what someone has said rather than being able to grasp sarcasm for example, or jokes, facial expressions or gestures. This can then go further in more severe cases, some with ASD may not talk at all of have very limited vocabulary making communication difficult but may be able to use signing or visual images. Try to speak slowly and clearly, allowing time for the communication to be processed.

2. Difficulty with social interaction. Some with ASD may find it difficult to read the emotions of others, they may also find it difficult to express their own emotions too making it even harder to adjust socially. They may not understand written or social etiquette, which most of us take for granted. A child with ASD may not be aware of personal space, standing too close to someone or discuss inappropriate topics in conversation. Children with ASD be more insensitive as they don’t recognise emotion in another, they may not seek comfort from others and may behave in an ‘odd’ manner when exhibiting the effects of their own emotional state.

3. Social imagination difficulties. Some children with ASD may find it difficult to process abstract ideas or to imagine scenarios that are not part of the normal daily routine. Some children may therefore find it difficult to understand the feelings of others, predict what may come next, engage in imaginative activities or games, understand danger or threat, cope with new or unfamiliar surroundings or scenarios.

Many children who fall on the autism spectrum of disorders may have above average intelligence, be very creative pursuing the arts, writing or musical interests.

If you have any concerns about your child, speak to your Health Visitor or GP, early intervention can be the key to good management of the condition.

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