What is autism?
About Autism: What are the common traits?
Autism is a neurological and biological disorder that typically shows signs in children between the ages of 18 months to five years of age. Autism is estimated to affect 1 in every 68 children today. Autism affects each individual differently and at different levels of severity. Some people with autism are severely affected, cannot speak, require constant one-on-one care, and are never able to live independently. While others who have less severe symptoms, can communicate, and eventually acquire the necessary skills to live on their own.
TYPICALLY, AUTISM AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS IN FIVE KEY AREAS:
- Communication (verbal and non-verbal)
- Social skills
- Overall Health and Wellness
- One in every 68 children in the U.S. are estimated to have been diagnosed with autism. (NOTE: This number does NOT include: PDD, Aspergers and other spectrum disorders. These statistics are endorsed by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other federal organizations.)
- Autism is a life-long disability for many affected individuals.
- Autism affects each individual uniquely.
- People affected with autism live a normal life span.
- Some people affected with autism will require life-long care at the cost of $5 to $7 million dollars.
- Autism is the most common developmental disability affecting children in the United States today. Autism is now more common that Down Syndrome, intellectual disability, and Cystic Fibrosis combined.
- Autism often strikes boys more often than girls – roughly four times more common in boys.
- Some children who receive an early diagnosis, intense behavioral intervention, medical treatment, and speech therapy will lead typical lives. Not all people diagnosed with autism receive such an early diagnosis or enjoy this outcome.
MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT AUTISM:
The common misconception with autism is that all autistics are like the actor Dustin Hoffman in his portrayal in the movie Rain Man. His character possessed an amazing mathematical skill of adding enormous amounts of objects or counting cards in a deck. This example is a Hollywood portrayal and is not the case with all individuals affected by autism. His performance is to be applauded, but it was only that: a performance, and should not be considered as an example of autism today.
COMMON AUTISTIC TRAITS:
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 affected differently. But like with all people – not all individuals with autism are alike. In fact, very few autistics have the exact same issues. Very few individuals with autism are affected with all the issues specified below.
SOME AUTISTIC TRAITS COULD INCLUDE:
- Scatter/splinter skills of abilities –
- Such as poor gross motor or fine motor skills and the ability to read at a very young age
- 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 meltdowns
- 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
- Many autistic people suffer from meltdowns or shutdowns, sometimes brought on by sensory overload and autistic burnout.
- Can be aggressive or self-injurious
- Prefers to be alone – may not understand social communication of neurotypical people
- Autistics can act deaf or be non responsive to verbal cues
- Odd play such as; spinning objects, *lining things up, or using toys for something besides there 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 due to overstimulation of the senses.
- 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 due to sensory issues regarding taste, texture, and smell.
- A high amount of severe food allergies
- History of chronic ear infections as an infant
- Severe gastro-intestinal issues; chronic loose and/or foul-smelling stools.
- 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 child’s physician or a qualified pediatric neurologist.