Autism includes a wide spectrum of disorders which have had an ever-growing children population in recent years. Families all over the country have been affected by autism spectrum disorders. According to Mash, autism has a high prevalence of 1 child per 150. This is a staggering amount in recent years (Mash & Wolfe, 2008). Therefore, much more research has been found about children with autism. Society is realizing that this disorder is becoming more known, and therefore we must educate parents, teachers, clinicians and others, so that the proper treatment can be given.
Autism includes many different deficits, although each aspect of this disorder is interconnected. According to Rogers, social dysfunction is the most common impairment in children with autism (Rogers, 2004). Children with autism are known to have trouble relating to other human beings. They may seem as though they are in their own little world, or are careless. It is important to realize that this is a characteristic of the disorder, and these children are in fact caring, and remorseful individuals. There are many different factors which lead to the conclusion that autistic children indeed have social dyfunctioning issues. For example, according to Mash, autistic children will often show atypical behaviors such as unusual facial expressions and body posture (2008). These children may also exhibit limited to no social expressiveness, engagement in make-believe play, or interest in what other children are doing (2008).
According to Rogers, several studies have shown that social impairments are directly related to other deficits such as language (2004). Another impairment that autistic children face is the ability to communicate. Depending on the severity of the disorder, many autistic children are non-verbal. According to Mash, children who do in fact develop language usually do so before the age of 5 (2008). One can imagine how mot being able to communicate would create many other social issues. According to Mash, young children show gestures, facial expressions, and such, exhibiting preverbal skills. While a toddler will point or use one-word sentences to engage another person in what they are doing, a child with autism will simply use pointing and other gestures to get what is needed (Mash & Wolfe, 2008). What is most interesting, is the fact that children with autism may be verbal, however will have the lack to use their communication in a social manner (2008). Language and social skills seem to work hand in hand.
According to Mash, autistic children also display repetitive behaviors and interests (2008). This may include a continuous motion such as shaking hands, or nodding their head. Some researchers believe that this shows an inability to find activities independently, while others believe that this is a way the child copes with a situation they may not understand (2008). These behaviors are self-stimulating for children, and may last throughout the child's life (2008). There are many theories as to why autistic children take part in self-stimulating behaviors. Overall the commonality seems to be that children are doing this in order to control the stimulation that is provided or lack thereof, to satisfy their inner being (2008).
Although children with autism suffer through various impairments, these children are amazing and unique individuals, with many different characteristics. Some autistic children have actually become famous because of their unbelievable talents. Although this is true, according to Mash, this is not common. 70% of autistic children show intellectual impairments (2008). More often than not, there seems to be one specific task that the child is able to excel in. For example, an autistic child may show extraordinary drawing or music abilities. According to Mash, 25% of children with autism show these extraordinary abilities (2008). Unfortunately, these special talents are said to be a side effect of abnormal brain functioning, rather than genuine intelligence (Mash & Wolfe, 2008).
Along with interesting talents and forms of intelligence, autistic children have been proven to have some sensory issues. Many children with this disorder are overly sensitive to sounds, smells, and textures. For example, a child with autism may react to a gentle tap on the shoulder as an intense pain (2008). According to Mash, children with autism may display sensory dominance, where the child focuses on certain sensory input over others (2008). At the same time, other children with this disorder may show stimulus over selectivity, where the child will focus on one event over others in the environment (2008). Both of these types of sensory impairments, include the inability to focus on what is necessary, and balance their attention on all the stimulus surrounding them.
It can be observed that many of the impairments found in autistic children, are similar to symptoms from other various disorders such as ADHD. According to Guillermo, it is in fact true that autistic children have a significantly higher chance to carry multiple diagnoses including ADHD and learning disabilities (Guillermo & Halterman, 2005). It seems that many of the impairments that come with autism could easily cause another disorder. For example, if a child with autism is unable to make social connections, they may obtain some form of asbergers. In addition, if an autistic child has a deficit in executive functions, they may also have ADHD or another learning disability.
Because of the extreme differences in severity and types of autism, forms of treatment are also variable (2008). Each child is an individual and it is important to realize this when treating children with mental disorders. According to Mash, the goal for most treatments is to minimize the primary impairments, while helping the child to obtain independence and normal-functioning skills (2008). Early intervention is very important in treating autistic children, and according to Mash, intervention for these children can start as early as age 3 (2008). Early intervention is crucial because the longer it is ignored, the more these inappropriate behaviors will happen and be untreated. There are many different forms of training created to help autistic children improve various deficits. For example, according to Mash, readiness skills are strengthened through two different approaches, including discrete trial training and incidental training (2008). Another form of training, which helps communication skills, is called operant speech training (2008). Operant training is a gradual process which helps to teach autistic children, first vocalizations, and then sounds of words, and later, meaning of words (2008). Many of these forms of treatment seem to teach the children life skills such as social skills, and communication skills.
Anyone who is associated with children has the potential to come into contact with an autistic child. Children with autism effect teachers, clinicians, families, and others all over the world. It is important to be educated about these children, and know how to cope with them. Autistic children affect everyone they come in contact with. It is important to understand how these children affect different people, so that we can become aware, and therefore better understand this disorder.
According to the autism society, many parents of autistic children struggle with caring for their family as a whole (Harris, 2009). The most obvious struggle seems to be the challenge of caring properly for your autistic child, however in reality, the challenge is balancing your attention to all the members of your family. Many siblings of autistic children may feel left out, or neglected, compared to their autistic sibling. It is important to explain autism to other siblings, as well as the symptoms of the autistic sibling in the family (2009). According to Sandra Harris, it is important to teach children about the autistic sibling in a way that is both developmentally appropriate and allows room for discussion (2009).
Educators all over the country are affected by autistic children. I believe that many teachers to not have the necessary training and knowledge to be able to deal with autistic children in the appropriate way. Many teachers struggle with the inclusion controversy, as well as many other controversies over the appropriate way to deal with children with disorders. The inclusion controversy is a debate in the education world concerning the decision to include these children in the general education classroom, or have them secluded in their own area of the school. Many say that having children with disabilities, in the general ed. classroom is both inappropriate for the child, and distracting to the other classmates. At the same time, others argue that putting children with disorders in a secluded classroom is holding them back, and refusing to give them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. This is an ongoing battle, and in reality, it takes an individualized assessment to make the right decision as to where would be the best environment for the child to learn.
Another conflict seen between parents and educators, is regarding the IEP created for children with autism or other mental disorders. Many parents or educators may disagree with the IEP set out for their child, or even refuse to abide by it. According to PR Newswire, a program called autism speaks supports a decision made by the Supreme Court, concerning IEP's (1996). The Supreme Court clarifies that families do not in fact have to try out the school district's plan before following the IEP. Many schools were expecting parents to try out the school district's plan for the autistic child, before considering an IEP. Gary Mayerson, an Autism Speaks board member, explains that it is actually dangerous to try a school district's plan, for example, which may be inappropriate for the autistic child (1996). In addition, it is important for early intervention, in order to understand the appropriate treatment and possible IEP for the child. Children, who do in fact need early intervention, do not have time to waste (1996). It is important for there to be positive communication and understanding as to what is the best plan for each individual, autistic child.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complicated diagnosis, with many different variables. Because each child is unique, the symptoms for autistic children are also unique. While autism is a progressing diagnosis for many children, people all over the country are affected by autistic children. It is crucial that we are educated about children with autism so that we can better understand them, and therefore help them to progress and cope, in an appropriate way.
Autism speaks applauds supreme court decision upholding families' right to challenge IEP's without first trying out school district proposed placement. (1996, October 10). PR Newswire, Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/autism-speaks-applauds-supreme-court-decision-upholding-families-right-to-challenge-ieps-without-first-trying-out-school-district-proposed-placement-58490872.html
Halterman, Jill, & Montes, Guillermo. (2006). Characteristics of school-age children with autism. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 27(5), Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/jrnldbp/Abstract/2006/10000/Characteristics_of_School_Age_Children_with_Autism.2.aspx
Harris, Sandra. (2009, June 21). Sibling issues. Retrieved from http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=life_fam_sibling
Mash, Eric, & Wolfe, David. (2008). Abnormal child psychology. Wadsworth Pub Co.
Rogers, Sally. (2004). Interventions that facilitate socialization in children with autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 30(5), Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/h04x3555v3657856/