What is Autism?
It is important to realise that each child with autism is different from the next so the descriptions in this information sheet should only be taken as a general guide. Nevertheless, the common problems affecting social interaction, communication and imagination and the repetitive behaviour are common to all.
A Range of Indicators
Children with autism exhibit a wide range of behaviours. Essentially though, the child will have difficulty relating to others and making friends; difficulty in communicating (some children may not talk at all); and be unable to engage in imaginative play. Other signs include obsessions, fears, a lack of awareness of danger, ritualistic play and behaviour, inappropriate eye contact, hypersensitivity to sound, light etc., spinning objects and hand flapping. A child does not need to show all these signs to be diagnosed as autistic and some children who do not have autism may exhibit some of these behaviours.
Some children never develop spoken language and their understanding may be limited. Others develop speech although this may begin much later than normal. Some of these children will develop echolalia – repeating words that may have little meaning for the child or repeating what you say. For example, when asking a child if he wants a drink, he may reply ‘Do you want a drink?’ The child may also use the words ‘Do you want a drink?’ to actually ask for a drink. He may also repeat words or phrases that he has heard in the past – including phrases from television programmes. For those children whose language develops beyond echolalia, they may have great difficulty with grammar and word meanings.
Non-verbal communication is also impaired. Young children may even have difficulty in understanding simple gestures such as nodding and shaking the head. They also have great difficulty in using such language, although they often develop simple skills as they grow older. The basic rule is to be clear, concise and consistent.
Signs of Autism
At 1 year: No babbling or pointing
At 16 months: No words, or words have disappeared
At 2 years: No phrases, or phrases have dropped
Repeating words or phrases in place of normal responsive language (Echolalia)
Little or no eye contact
Enjoys movement and is calmer when rocking, swinging or jumping or shaking body or head
Flapping hands, Toe-walking or biting
Displaying odd play such as playing with doors, fixated with spinning objects, stacking toys, lining up toys
Laughing or showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
Unexplainable excessive crying
Not using age appropriate words when communicating
Aggression which is unexplained
Difficulty in expressing needs
Little or no smiling
Prefers to be alone, aloof manner
Over sensitive to certain everyday sounds such as vacuum cleaner or dog barking
Resisting change to set routine
Delay in spoken language
Your child likes playing on their own-solitary play
Appearing to be completely indifferent to others feeling