UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD WITH AUTISM
It was once said that: “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” 1
What is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or PDD?
ASD is a neurological developmental disability that is known to affect normal brain function. This, in turn, affects communication skills and causes difficulties with social interaction. 2
The term “spectrum” is used to provide more information on the extent or level of impairment of a child with Autism spectrum disorder.
Pervasive developmental disability (PDD) describes a group of severe, early developmental disorders characterized by delays in multiple areas of development, including social skills, cognition, and communication. A diagnosis of PDD indicates the presence of autism or a related neurobiological disorder (DSM-IV,2000).
ASD can range from mild to severe and while children with Autism may share symptoms, there may be fundamental differences. The number of symptoms or perhaps the severity of certain symptoms may differ from child to child.
The signs of ASD usually begin to appear before age 3, around the same time that social skills and communication can be evaluated. 3
Signs and symptoms of Autism
The primary symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involve difficulties with communication and social interaction. Some signs may be observed at a very young age like: 3, 4, 5
- The inability to mimic emotions
- Finding it difficult to display emotions
- Difficulty with making eye contact
- Lack of empathy
- Not being able to perceive affection or anger in other people
- Not responding to their name
- The preference to be alone
- Repetitive rote learnt phrases, echolalia or late language development
- Few interests
- Advanced knowledge in restricted, specific interests
- Stereotypical repetitive movements like rocking backwards and forwards
- Unimaginative play
- Sensitivity to routine changes
- Food dislikes due to texture or colour
Autism and Social Communication Difficulties
Theory of Mind refers to the ability to understand that different people have different beliefs, knowledge, moods and motivations and that all of this affects their behaviour and actions. On top of this, most people are also able to realise that these things may affect other people.
Theory of mind forms part of perspective taking which is the ability to relate to other people. You could say that perspective taking is the ability that most people have to empathise with the people around them; and to acknowledge their perspectives on things.
Children with Autism have difficulty understanding these complexities. They may have trouble with recognising their own motivations, moods and beliefs as well as those of other people. 2,6
Communication is generally seen as language-based. However, a large portion of we say is actually non-verbal. Our body-language, gestures and voice tone form the largest part of the messages that we convey.
In a similar way to how toddlers first learn to crawl before walking, we first develop pre-language skills before we learn to use words. Some children lack skills like: making eye contact, using gestures, making body movements, imitating others or babbling. They should be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist and, if needed, treatment needs to be considered to prevent any further delays concerning autism and speech. 3
Treatment approaches for Autism Spectrum Disorder
In children with ASD, speech and language skills can be improved with speech therapy for autism. Parents and other care givers like teachers can also help a child with autism to improve their communication skills by learning and paying attention to important pre-linguistic skills. 4
At The Speech Practice, we help these children in their language development and social communication skills by using a variety of therapeutic approaches.
One of our core values is to assist children in overcoming communication barriers with ease. To learn more about our services and what we stand for, kindly follow this link to The Speech Practice to get in touch!