Autism is a developmental feature that, along with Asperger’s syndrome, is included in the concept of «autism spectrum disorder» (ASD). Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and behavioral characteristics of the child. These three items (communication, conversation, behavior) are commonly referred to as the “triad of impairments” because they include the full range of difficulties that children with autism may experience. At the same time, individual manifestations vary depending on the age of the child, the form of autism and other factors.
Why are children born with autism spectrum disorder?
The exact prerequisites for the birth of children with autism have not yet been identified. According to research results, the main factor is hereditary, caused by disorders in the cerebral cortex in previous generations. Scientists also believe that ionizing radiation, infections, and taking psychotropic drugs during pregnancy can lead to autism.
Can autism be cured?
Since there is no common cause of ASD in babies, there is no specific treatment. Autism is a lifelong condition.
How does autism manifest itself in social interaction?
The manifestations of autism in the social interaction of children can be different: atypical social behavior, difficulties in forming or maintaining complex interpersonal relationships.
For example, a child may:
- strive to be friends with other children, but have difficulty building contacts;
- interact with the team, but do not share your emotions, impressions;
- keep a distance from others;
- not understand that you need to behave differently with friends, strangers.
How does autism manifest itself in the communicative and speech sphere?
Violations in this area affect not only speech itself as speaking, but also all methods of communication: verbal and non-verbal.
- the child’s speech may be underdeveloped;
- the child may use speech only to describe his needs and wants;
- the child can speak freely, but have difficulty interpreting the meaning of what was said;
- a child can understand many words, phrases too literally, metaphors are incomprehensible or difficult for him to perceive;
- intonation, the tone of speech of other people the child may not catch;
- the child may misunderstand or use gestures, facial expressions, other non-verbal signals;
- he can speak in a monotone;
- the child may have difficulty changing the queue in a conversation;
- the child may ask the same questions.
How does autism manifest itself in behavior and thinking?
The main manifestations of the mental-behavioral sphere are the child’s low social imagination, a lack of flexibility in thinking, the presence of ritual behavior, and dependence on routine actions. Role-playing games that require a rich imagination may be absent in the life of such a baby;
Another child can:
- react negatively to changes in the regime, routine, or if some rules are not followed;
- observe certain patterns and rituals;
- have difficulty separating fantasy and reality.
In addition to the triad of impairments, children with autism may have:
- special interests;
- increased anxiety and vulnerability;
- difficulty in coordinating movements;
- disorders of motor skills and sensory perception;
- mood swings;
- craving for organization, planning, alignment, ordering of objects, actions;
- nutritional difficulties (for example, a poor diet due to cravings only for certain foods or dishes).
Why does a child sometimes cover his ears, squint, or react negatively to smells?
In children with autism, these activities are associated with sensory problems. Many babies with ASD are hypersensitive to external stimuli such as smells, light, sounds, temperature, taste, so they block them. Other children with autism, on the contrary, may have reduced sensitivity — in this case, they require additional stimulation of the senses. It is not uncommon for children to oscillate between these states.
What is «central agreement»?
Central coordination is the process by which all stimuli entering the brain are coordinated and connected. Thanks to this process, a person can compare, extract meaning, analyze, draw analogies.
In autistic children, central coordination is weakened. It is for this reason that the child may have difficulty understanding events, recognizing the area from an unusual angle, transferring skills from one area to another, and combining details into a single whole.
What does «model of the mind» mean?
The mental model is a concept by which a person is able to interpret the thoughts and emotions of other people. This ability underlies communication, but in children with ASD this ability is either poorly developed or develops only by adolescence. Because of this, the child may be unable to predict someone else’s behavior, plans, intentions. Children with autism sometimes have difficulty answering questions in conversation or when reflecting on their behavior.
What are the unique characteristics of children with ASD?
Autistic children may be interested in exact and creative sciences (mathematics, astronomy, zoology, music, botany, computer science): they are logical thinkers, but their abstract perception is limited. Many children have an excellent memory for factual information (dates, numbers, names), details.
Who should parents contact if their child has autism?
For the diagnosis of autism, it is better not to be limited to one doctor. If ASD is suspected in a child, it is recommended to contact a psychiatrist and neurologist to compile a complete clinical picture.