Speech is slow to develop in the child with Autism or does not develop at all. Words, if used, may be used out of context or without the intent to communicate at all. Children with Autism may echo the words of others without appearing to understand their meaning. They may use words and then 'lose' them. They make infrequent eye contact and rarely understand or use gestures.
Children with Autism have difficulty interpreting and using language for social interaction; their motivation to interact is affected and their social use of language is impaired. They may appear indifferent to affection and lack social responsiveness to the interests, needs and feelings of others. They may seek social contact in unusual ways and prefer to be alone rather than in the company of others. They may be unresponsive and may only tolerate approach from people very familiar to them. They are usually unaware of social rules and have difficulty taking turns in games.
Children with Autism may respond to objects in unusual and repetitive ways and show intense levels of interest in one area. They are unable to understand that an object may be used for another purpose other than the one they know. Their patterns of play and movement may be ritualised and they may have vocal rituals that involve unusual sounds and/or nonsense words. They are often resistive to change and exhibit ritualistic or compulsive behaviour, abnormal attachments and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
Children with Autism are naturally repetitive and tend to memorize sequences of events or words. They do not naturally integrate information and lack understanding of how to initiate and maintain interactions. They have difficulty screening out irrelevant stimuli and may be disturbed by subtle environmental conditions. They learn better visually and are very literal and concrete. They are visual thinkers and learn from experience. They have difficulty processing transient information, shifting attention, selecting relevant information and generalizing.
Children with Autism often have difficulty organising and processing sensory input. 90- 100% of children with autism experience sensory processing deficits. These children work hard to retain a balance between arousal and organising- many odd or ritualistic behaviours are likely to be a way of organising sensory input. Their sensory system is very easily aroused. Autistic children may be distracted or overloaded by subtle changes in environmental conditions that would not concern other children, such as the sound of a fan working in an adjoining room.
There are many ways that parents, teachers and health professionals can support children with Autism so they can reach their full potential. Read our other articles to find out more.
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