Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. People with Autism may also experience an over, or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
Asperger syndrome is a form of Autism, people with Aspergers are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.
ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can have a range of symptoms, which often start to show in childhood. Symptoms can be:
* Problems with social interaction or communication – including difficulties understanding or awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings.
* Delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly.
Restricted and repetitive thought patterns are typical. Routines are needed and liked, interrupting these can cause the child to become upset, angry and often will lead to a tantrum. Repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twitches are also very common.
It is important to recognise that all children reach developmental milestones at different ages and just because a child likes a routine does not necessarily mean that they are on the Autistic Spectrum. Every family who is affected by Autism has a different experience and comparing like with like is not always a good idea.
For children under school age, your Health Visitor or GP should be able to assist with any concerns you have regarding your child. If they are in a Nursery or Pre-School setting, your key-worker or the named Special Needs Co-ordinator may offer you some insight into your child’s behaviour whilst they are in their care. Once your child has reached school age, their class teacher can be a very good initial point of contact as can your GP. It is worth keeping a diary of any particular behavioural traits that you observe to discuss with any medical professionals who may become involved.
Development areas to encourage
It is important to remember that your child’s Autism will differ from others’.
To encourage speech and understanding use simple words and phrases, stress key words and use picture clues to enrich the context and encourage children (see the link to PECS below). Continually check your child is understanding what is being communicated and if needed be willing to repeat it.
An Autistic child often responds to structure and routine, use favourite toys to develop the use of words.
A visual timetable will keep them informed of what’s happening next, helping them plan ahead and feel more in control.
Activities that they can engage with
Craft activities are enjoyed by many children on the Autism spectrum, giving them the opportunity to explore colours, shapes, and textures.
Sensory experiences can stimulate and improve attention, foster calm, and create loads of fun! Use colourful visual games, jigsaws, lego and bubbles.
Games involving turn taking can encourage social play, which can be challenging at times but always rewarding when accomplished.
Children with Autism often have heightened senses and awareness as they use parts of the brain others don’t, these can vary from child to child and can be stimulated and expressed accordingly. For example, some may have the ability to see an iconic building during a day out and sketch it perfectly later on with excellent attention to detail.