Autism is a difference in the way of experiencing the world. The child may process information about their surroundings differently to neurotypical children. This means that the way a child will have differences in the way he or she relates to the world and people around them. Autism is a spectrum, which means that children can be affected to different degrees. However, the majority of autistic children have challenges in the areas of communication, social interactions and imagination (flexibility of thought). It is important to note that many autistic people do not need specific support, especially when within autism-friendly environments.
Some Facts About Autism
- Autism affects more than one child in a hundred.
- Around four times as many boys as girls are likely to be diagnosed with autism (though this may reflect under-diagnosis in girls).
- For a diagnosis of autism, the behaviours must begin before the age of three.
Examples of Autism Spectrum Behaviours:
- Echoing words/phrases without context
- Taking an adult to the biscuit tin rather than asking or pointing
- Taking language too literally
- Often chooses to play alone
- Difficulty making friends
- Not understanding other’s thoughts and emotions
Repetitive or restrictive behaviours
- Repetitive physical behaviours such as hand flapping or toe walking (often used to self-sooth or self-stimulate)
- Repetitive routines such as lining items up, playing with a toy in the same way each time, following the same route.
- Seeking out specific visual or auditory experiences such as spinning wheels on a toy train, looking at the bars of a fence, listening to the themes tunes of favourite programmes.
- Being restrictive around certain activities such as eating only yellow food, watching the same programme over and over or only wearing a favourite jumper.
Other Characteristics of Autism
Autistic people may or may not have the following:
- Exceptional attention to detail
- Sensory differences, this is most noticeable when children are over-sensitive to stimuli e.g. distress at loud noises
- Trouble with co-ordination
- Unusual eating behaviour such as only eating certain foods
- Additional learning disabilities
This a summary of some of the obstacles that may arise but it should be noted that all autistic people have a great number of strengths and specific abilities that should be recognised and valued.