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WHAT is autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

 

We now know that autism is caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. Some developmental delays associated with Autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Early intervention can improve outcomes and is highly recommended.

Typically, Autism affects

individuals in five key areas:

  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal)

  • Social skills

  • Behaviours

  • Learning

  • Medical issues

Don't underestimate me, 

I know more than I say,

think more than I speak &

notice more than you realise.

People diagnosed with Autism process, respond, and interact with information in different ways. In some cases, individuals with Autism may not be able to speak, may have self stimulatory behaviors (such as hand flapping, vocal utterances, repetitive behaviors), may be aggressive or be self-injurious. Each individual with Autism is effected differently.

People with Autism may appear aloof and indifferent to other people and often cannot understand the meaning of gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice. They may also have difficulty initiating and maintaining back-and-forth conversations.

Because of their limited capacity to understand other people’s feelings, people with Autism do not develop friendships easily. Children with ASD often don’t enjoy experiences that other children their age enjoy, such as birthday parties, and are not interested in other children their own age. Children with ASD may have problems with imaginative or pretend play and often have extreme difficulty coping with changes to routine.

Many people with ASD have strong reactions to sensory experiences — they may be either fascinated or afraid of particular sounds, textures or visual experiences, such as loud noises, bright lights or busy environments. Some people with ASD have a very high tolerance to pain.

Individuals with Autism may appear to live in a world of their own, in some cases using a language or vocabulary only they understand.

Although Autism is often associated with learning problems, not all people with these disorders are affected in this way. Indeed some people with Autism have superior cognitive functioning and excellent memories. Every person with ASD is affected differently and some live and work successfully in the community, having adjusted to the effects of their condition on their lives.

Some ASD traits could include:

  • Scatter/splinter skills of abilities – such as poor gross motor or fine motor skills

  • Oversensitive or under sensitive to pain

  • Desire for the same daily schedule, toys, type of clothes or an insistent on “sameness”

  • Repeating words, phrases in place of typical language or conversation (This is known as echolalia)

  • Much difficulty expressing needs – they may use pointing, gestures versus words, or tantrums

  • Finding situations funny or laughing at times when it is inappropriate (i.e., laughing at a baby crying.)

  • Activity is noticeably under active or over active

  • Excessive or frequent tantrums or meltdowns

  • Can be aggressive or self injurious

  • Prefers to be alone – may have social skills deficits

  • People on the spectrum can act deaf or be non responsive to verbal cues

  • Odd play such as; spinning objects, or using toys for something besides their intended purpose or using an odd attraction to an item that is inappropriate for age

  • Non existent or poor eye contact

  • Non responsive to typical teaching methods

  • May respond negatively to crowds or not able to mix well with others

  • Difficulty with holding a conversation

  • May not like hugs, or to be cuddled.

  • Sensitivity to loud noises, tags in clothes, coarse clothing, lights, and smells

  • Frequently uses peripheral vision to track items (e.g., rolling car along countertop at eye-level)

  • Highly self-limited diet (narrow down foods they’ll eat to a very limited few items when previously a broader range was accepted e.g., bread, chicken nuggets, cheese, milk, and crackers – period.)

  • A high amount of severe food allergies.

  • Lack of imaginative play or imitation.

Many of the above traits can occur in neurotypical individuals as well. However, the more symptoms from this list that apply (at least eight or more,) the possibility of autism might be considered and discussed with your doctor or a qualified specialist.

SOME known causes

  • Research indicates that genetics are involved in the vast majority of cases. 

  • Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism. 

  • Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2 to 18 percent chance of having a second child who is also affected. 

  • Studies have shown that among identical twins, if one child has autism, the other will be affected about 36 to 95 percent of the time. In non-identical twins, if one child has autism, then the other is affected about 31 percent of the time.  

  • Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.