Many parents find it difficult to define what autism is. Some parents say, ‘my child is just going on a slower pace’, but nevertheless continue to worry that their child may have autism.
To help in this discussion, we list down below what we know as the typical clinical characteristics of autism.
Autism entails the following:
— impairment in social development and imaginative play — including lack of eye contact, not responding to name, not responding to where you are pointing, not sharing interests of others
— markedly impaired communication skills and language development – the lack of ability, or interest to communicate (whether verbally or non-verbally) with those around him or her.
— display of stereotyped patterns of behavior (some examples include but are not limited to – spinning, body rocking, flapping of hands, lining up of objects) to the extent where the individual has a restricted range of activities and interests
Some children may display only some of these symptoms. Others may display all of them.
What are the symptoms of autism from a behavioral standpoint?
From a behavioral standpoint, we see that individuals with autism have both Deficits (behavior that they lack which typical children usually have) as well as Excesses (behaviors that they show a lot of, which typical children do not).
The Behavior Deficits that we normally see among individuals with autism are in the areas of:
— Communication – receptive language (the ability to understand and respond to what people say) and expressive language (the ability to express what the individual wants to say)
— Social – eye contact, reading social cues, functioning properly in a social context
— Play – both the ability to play independently with toys, as well as the ability and the interest to play with peers with enjoyment
— Self-Help Skills– feeding self, dressing self, and bathing, toilet training and other self- help skills
— Generalization – the ability to connect what is learned in class to a more natural environment (eg the understanding that the apple that he read about in a book is the same apple as what he saw in the grocery)
The Behavior Excesses that we normally see among individuals with autism are:
— Tantrum behavior (screaming/crying, etc.)
— Aggression (hitting/ biting/ throwing, etc.)
— Self Injurious Behavior (like hitting own head on wall)
— Self Stimulatory Behavior (like spinning, body rocking, etc)
— Stereotypical behaviors (perseveration/ repeating words and phrases, obsessive behaviors etc)
Who do I talk to if my child is showing symptoms of autism?
It is best to talk to your pediatrician or developmental pediatrician quickly as soon as you see any signs of autism in your child. They will be able to guide you on the best next steps moving forward.
Also, it is good to see what methods of therapy are available at your location, should you and your doctor decide that your child would need it.
At ABC Center, we use the principles of ABA to help children manage both the behavior excesses and deficits that comes with autism. Because each child is different, we start every program with a full assessment of the child. Based on this assessment, an individualized program is created to address the necessary areas. It is recommended that parents start intervention as early as possible to increase the chance of success for their child.