- Autism is a medical diagnosis. The conditions involves a range of disorders affecting the way a person communicates and relates to people. There can be huge differences in the way it affects individuals and each child will need an individual approach to learning.
- Usually shows up within first three years of life; some children may appear to be developing normally for the first year or two while in others the signs are present in the first year.
- Remains with child throughout life but with training most able people can learn to manage the condition and live independently.
- Autism can occur at all levels of general ability although about a quarter of people with the condition have mild learning difficulties and about half have severe learning difficulties.
- Sometimes children and teenagers with autism can have serious difficulties sleeping and this can have further detrimental effects on their education. Information can be found at http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=367&a=3376
- Many children with autistic spectrum disorders tend to walk on their toes and this can lead to a need to have an operation to cut the tendons.
What to look out for:
The child seems to have difficulty making sense of the world around him/her and lacks imagination and understanding for others’ feelings, thoughts and needs. This results in a restriction in their social activities and a tendency towards a narrow, repetitive pattern of activities which take up all of their attention. The child can become obsessively interested in one subject. The child may have little use of language and may seem to be ‘in a world of his/her own.’ Activities which require turn-taking are difficult for children with ASD.
Repetitive behaviour can include spinning, rocking and making noises. Changes in routine can upset and confuse children with an ASD.
Sometimes these children can have extremely high levels of ability in a narrow range of activities but lack of appropriate language or difficulties with planning and organization can mean it is difficult for them to express their understanding.
This condition can occur alongside other conditions, notably ADHD.
Autism Tish Balfe, InTouch November 2000 (may be requested from www.into.ie)