A Primer To Understand Basics Of What is Autism
Autism is a word we hear a lot these days. So perhaps you've wondered exactly what is autism. This is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication. It manifests itself through restricted and repetitive behaviour, usually before a child is 3 years old. Studies indicate that genetics play a role in the cause of autism. It also occurs more frequently in males.
There are different levels of autism that range from mild to severe. People with high functioning autism may simply appear odd socially, have narrowly focused interests, and difficulty communicating with others. Severe autistics may be mute, mentally disabled, and display physical symptoms like continual rocking of the body or hand flapping.
Autism is often confused with Asperger's Syndrome because they have some startling similarities. They both have a lot of the same symptoms, but individuals with Asperger's tend to achieve more cognitively than those with autism. Asperger's patients do not show the outward physical effects, merely the social ones.
With support and encouragement these individuals can go on to lead independent lives. Often the similarities between the two problems lead to an initial diagnosis of autism but is later changed to Asperger's as the individual grows older.
There is no one treatment that works with all autistics. However, there are many things that one can do to reduce the stressful effects of autism on a family. Autistic children are easily over stimulated with too much noise or light. If they do become aggressive, a 'time-out' will help them calm down and regroup. Try to keep them in a structured routine.
Autistics find comfort in familiarity and knowing what to expect. You can help them communicate by using pictures, flashcards or sign language. This is often known as using a visual schedule. Be very loving and patient. Just because they do not communicate well doesn't mean they don't understand when you are upset or frustrated with them.
It cannot be stressed enough, as stated above, that people with autism, particularly children, find great comfort in having a routine or a set schedule of what is going to happen. Before children are old enough to read or to comprehend the written word, this is done visually, called a visual schedule, where pictures are used to depict the next activity for the day, like a picture of food for lunchtime, a picture of a bed for nap time, a picture of a playground to depict time for outdoor activities or recess, etc.
It is easy to get discouraged when your child is having an especially bad day. It is important for parents of autistic children to have a support system. You can't do it alone. There are many support groups that can help you cope with it as well as educate you on how to best handle certain situations. So, what is autism? Yes, it is a lifelong developmental disability, but it is not a death sentence. Your child can still lead a very fulfilling life with your loving support.
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