How much do you know about autism spectrum disorder? Many people have heard the term and have a general idea about what the spectrum is, but they can’t really define any parts of it. They aren’t sure about the specifics. If you want to know more about autism spectrum disorder, then you’re in the right place.
We’ll go over many of the basics of the disorder here so that you’ll understand exactly what it is, why it’s called a “spectrum,” and even what some of the most common symptoms are. Keep reading to find out more.
Why Is It Called A Spectrum?
Basically, there is no “one” type of autism. As the saying goes, “if you’ve met one kid with autism, then you’ve met one kid with autism.” This is just how it is. Some kids with autism might be nonverbal, while others enjoy talking to others, even if they are complete strangers. Others might practice stimming techniques, where they flap their hands or flick a pencil (for the record, these are calming to them), while others don’t. There’s a large range of behaviors and habits of those on the spectrum, which is why it’s, well, called a spectrum in the first place.
General Things That All Kids with Autism Have In Common
With that said, there are some general things that you’ll see in kids with autism. For example, they have issues with social interactions. These could be everything from not wanting to socialize with anyone at all, to actually speaking with others, but missing out on important verbal cues, such as not understanding sarcasm. Kids with autism also don’t like change – to an extreme.
Yes, many people in general hate change, but those with autism need to keep a routine going. It’s just how they are. When that routine is thrown off for any reason, they react in a negative manner. Also, many kids with autism will need some sort of constant help in order to function day in and day out. This may mean that they need to go to a special school, attend special classes, or just have an aide who helps them in a regular classroom.
Of course, that’s just a school example. They’ll need some sort of assistance throughout life on a daily basis. There is no specific type of this assistance for all kids with autism – it all depends on where they are on the autism spectrum.
When Are Most Kids Diagnosed?
This is something that tends to be a bit tricky. Some pediatricians have attempted to diagnose children that are as young as one year old with autism. This seems extreme. However, the standard age of diagnosis tends to be between the ages of two and five.
Many of the symptoms will appear during this time period, and they become more pronounced once the child goes off to kindergarten. In fact, many elementary schools have a pre-testing period that will examine the child before the school year starts. This way, they can start them off with the right supports in place.
Do All Kids With Autism Have Sensory Issues?
While autism is indeed a spectrum, it’s safe to say that many kids with autism have some sort of sensory processing issue. They may not like to touch things that are slimy. They might avoid certain foods because they don’t like the way that those foods feel while they’re chewing them. Loud noises and bright lights might be jarring.
It’s also easy for a child with autism to become overwhelmed and need a place to calm down that’s dark and quiet. This doesn’t mean that you need to avoid these places – it just means that you’ll need to adjust slightly should they begin to act out because your child is over stimulated. As long as you’re prepared, everything will be all right.
Symptoms to Look For
On top of everything that we’ve described here so far, there are a number of other symptoms that you might see in a child with autism. Keep in mind that some of them are indicative of other disorders, but when they are looked at as a whole, they are seen as signs that your child is on the autism spectrum. Some of these include things repeating certain phrases or words over and over again, not being able to look other people in the eye when they’re speaking, and even becoming extremely interested (some would say obsessed) with a particular subject. Some kids with autism even have a habit of lining up toys on the floor, use words incorrectly (although they mean something to the child), and use a tone of voice that has no emotional inflection.
Of course, these are only six examples. As we explained here, every child with autism is quite different.
Sam Knight, the author of this guest article writes on behalf of Bluesprig Autism – a clinic specializing in ABA therapy in Austin, TX.