Saturday, April 30, 2011

Special Needs: What is Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

What is Autism?
Good question, it means different things to different people.  Maybe the question what we really want to know is who are these autistic people?

 So who are these autistic kids anyway?

I've been working with kids diagnosed with autism for the past 13 years, they are all different and many kids with cognitive impairments have autistic behaviors.  By autistic behaviors I mean self stimulating behaviors like arm flapping, stimming off of lights, moving fingers in front of their face and watching intently, flipping objects, spinning objects, perseverating, those kinds of things. 




To me the kids with autism are kids lost in a jungle of all these self stimulating behaviors.  On the outside there is little or random eye contact.  Objects in the outside world enthrall them objects like a piece of string they can twist or spin.


These autistic kids seem to in their own world and if you are lucky enough to get them into this world their attention gets caught on how things that we don't even notice.  They don't understand this world.  To me a child with autism is in the jungle and you just have to get through all of the 'vines and underbrush' of behaviors and stimming and there they are in the middle of it.


Once you get through the jungle, there they are a kid just playing like Mowgli.  Once you find the child in the autism jungle you can work with them and teach them and help them to cope with our world better.  But when you go they don't come out of the jungle with you, they stay there.  They can't come out, your only hope is that you gave them some tools to deal with this world outside their jungle a little better.  They will be dealing with our world through the vines of autism.

For those of you who would like a more 'official' definition of autism read on...

A few interesting definitions of autism.

The website Aarphealthtools.org describes autism as:

Autism is a behavior disorder, characterized by an impairment in social communication, social interaction, and social imagination. Those with autism often have a restricted range of interests and display repetitive behaviors and mannerisms, along with altered reactions to the everyday environment.


The website AutismSpeaks.org defines autism as:

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not
Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.

And of course no definition would be complete without checking with Wikipedia here is a fragment of their definition:

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old.[2] Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.[3] It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.[4]


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