Autism is a spectrum disorder where affected individuals can range from mild to severe. There are three or four characteristics:
- impairment in social interaction
- speech and language delay
- obsessive or repetitive behaviour
- sensory dysfunction
Autism is a life long, complex disorder that affects all areas of the child’s development. It is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. It is 4 times more common in boys and current statistics suggest that it occurs as frequently as 1/87 births.
Affected children have difficulty interacting with others and therefore have difficulty forming relationships. There may be little awareness of other people’s feelings with inappropriate social contact. Autistic children may be emotionally indifferent and dislike being held, touched or cuddled. They may prefer to play in isolation. There may be unusual or no eye contact.
Speech and Language delay
Speech may be abnormal, delayed or absent. There may be minimal reaction to verbal input and the child may appear and be tested for hearing impairment. They may only copy what they hear. Facial gesture may be unusual or absent. The child may have difficulty initiating conversations and speech may be “off track”. The child may engage in monologues about his/her favourite topic. They may have difficulty discussing or understanding abstract topics. There may be an unusual tone or axccent that can’t be explained.
Imagination or Behaviour
Symbolic or pretend play is absent or the child plays out scripts copied from TV. They may not see the relevance of the whole and may concentrate on irrelevant detail. They may rock or spin objects or flap their hands. They may obsess about objects or topics of interest e.g. wheels, fans, light switches, Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs. They may be very routine bound, insisting on doing things one way only. Change can cause distress. They may engage in a limited number of activities.
One or more of their senses may be heightened and this may result in their day-to-day environment becoming a bombardment of confusing input.
RED FLAGS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
- No babbling by 11 months.
- No simple gestures by 12 months (waving)
- No single words by 16 months.
- No 2 word phrases by 24 months.
- No response when name is called.
- Loss of language or social skills at any age.
- Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands.
- Over sensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights.
- Lack of interest in toys or playing unusually with them.
- Compulsions or rituals. Tantrums if rituals are interrupted.
- Unusual fears.
- Rarely makes eye contact.
- Does not play peek-a-boo.
- Does not point to show things.
- Rarely smiles socially.
- More interested in looking at objects than people’s faces.
- Prefers to play alone.
- Does not attempt to get parent’s attention.
- Is in his/her own world.
- Does not respond to parent’s attempts to play.
- Avoids or ignores other children if they approach.
- No real fear of danger.
- Bizarre eating patterns.
- High pain threshold.
- Abnormal sleep.
Material taken from Autism Ontario – Durham Region.
If you are worried, please contact a professional.
AUTISM IS TREATABLE. EARLY INTERVENTION IS CRITICAL.