The Most Common Early Signs Of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is a mental condition that affects children the most, however, it can affect adults too as it’s an incurable disability, so children grow up having that condition throughout their lives. Autistic children often are not able to form relationships, it’s very hard for them to even show affection at times even to their family. Depending on how severely autistic an individual is they often show these symptoms which are; avoiding eye contact, difficulty in communicating with others, and also delayed speech and more which I will be discussing later on this assignment. These symptoms show as early as between 12-18 months in babies. The reason why this disability can only be detected that late is because it’s an invisible disability, which makes it really hard to detect and it can only be pinpointed once a child begins to socialise and speak. In this assignment, I will discuss and explain in depth Autism and its spectrum and also how education intervenes with these signs.
When scientists and doctors first started to investigate autism, they thought it had to do with insanity due to the little amount of research they had access to them during those times. In 1943 Leo Kenner first noticed that some children were slow learners, then Hans Asperger investigated more and found out that it was an actual disability, so it was named Asperger Syndrome. This is a high functioning form of autism, this means that they have amazing intellectual skills however they lack social skills. But most people diagnosed with Asperger don’t have speech problems, instead, they have difficulty communicating and socialising with others. With further research, they both then found out that autism was a disorder that made children develop slower or faster, depending on where it was at on the spectrum of autism. Also, they believed that it affected children’s social and communication with others. So, what is Autism Spectrum Disorder? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a ‘developmental disorder’ because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.” (NIMH). There are 3 main types of autism, one of them being the Autistic Disorder which is referred to as the ‘classic’ autism and this one of the most severe types of autism. Children with this type of autism have serious language delays as well as finding it really hard to socialise with other individuals, and they also often don’t do very well in school. The second type is the Asperger Syndrome that I stated earlier. This is a mild case of autism, children with this disability often have normal or amazing intellectual skills and don’t have issues with their speech. But they will have social issues and have unusual repetitive behaviour. And lastly, there’s the PDD, which stands for Pervasive Development Disorder. This is also called atypical autism, this is often for people who meet most of the autistic disorder or the Asperger syndrome but don’t have all the symptoms. They are often placed here as they have a much milder form of autism, however, they still have communication and socialising issues.
What is the cause? Well, many scientists say that it’s caused due to a faulty gene or either the lack of oxygen in a child whilst they’re in the womb. Another cause of autism is the chemical imbalance in the brain and these chemical imbalances are often caused due to diseases such as Rubella (German measles) in pregnant women. Another cause for autism may be the environmental toxins, we are polluting our environment with substances such as mercury and this is a seriously heavy metal that can be bad for pregnant woman and children to inhale. This may explain why the number of people who have autism increased. In 2000 there 1 in 150 people who had Autism in England, now in 2012 there are 1 in 68 people with autism. And environmental changes such as global warming can be blamed for this. This article called ‘Autism Risk Linked to Particulate Air Pollution, emphases the increase of autism over the years; “The Harvard study included children of the 116,430 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which began in 1989. The researchers collected data on where the women lived while pregnant and levels of particulate pollution. They then compared the prenatal histories of 245 children with autism spectrum disorder to 1,522 normally-developing children, all born from 1990 to 2002”. (Pollution. A)
Many say that autism affects boys and girls differently, but whom does it affect more? A lot of studies that have been taken over the years show that autism affects boys more than girls, the ratio is about 2:1 to 16:1. Also in one of Leo Kanner’s biggest studies, he found out that amongst a variety of small children, that autism affects boys 4 times more than girls. A while back when they had little knowledge of autism, a researcher called Hans Asperger believed that autism only affected boys. This was due to the fact that it was mainly boys who had bigger signs of it and also autism affects the genders differently. There are many theories as to why autism affects the genders differently, one of them is that there is a female autism phenotype. This means that women often don’t fit the format that detects autism, simply because those profiles were made for men and not for women. This often leads to woman being underdiagnosed or not being diagnosed at all or even much later on in their life. This is emphasised in Gould j’s journal called, ‘Missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis’,” There is a need to consider the extent to which females on the autism spectrum present differently from males and to explore whether they have different needs. This would then have implications for the systems, instruments and processes used for diagnosis and for the types of interventions offered”. (J., G. and Smith J, A). Another theory is women are girls are good at not showing the difficulties that they may be facing, and also the gender differences between girls and boys show that boys are likely to inherit autism due to the fact that autism could be caused by the amounts of testosterone levels in the brain whilst the baby is still in the womb. Also, one big major factor is that teachers don’t usually report autistic behaviour in young girls, rather they report the boys more often.
Autism can be really hard to recognise within children depending on how severe the autism is and where it lands on the spectrum, most types of autism can be detected as late as 6-18 months. It can only be detected once the child is old enough to start moving and do a little socialisation with others. One of the earliest signs of autism is when babies first start playing with toys and they are too focused on the toy and don’t respond to people calling them at all, rather they just ignore. But many babies do that. So to narrow down autism in babies there are these signs to look out for one of them being; your child not making eye contact with you at all during times they should be giving you it e.g whilst being fed, they also don’t follow your hand when you are gesturing something to them, they also don’t smile often. Another sign is them not being into things other babies are such as peekaboo games and one of the biggest red flags and ay signalise that your child may be autistic is that they don’t react to sound sometimes even really loud sounds. It’s much easier to be able to tell if a child has autism after they reach 1-2 years old because by then things such as speech are going to be expected, and autistic children don’t speak until much later as a lot of them have speech delays. Another sign is your child not walking on his feet rather on his toes, or he may not walk at all due to the intellectual capacity. They may shut the world around them off often due to the fact that they can hear a lot of things at the same time and also having a really hard time communicating with anyone even their parents. Many parents to be wonder what precautions they can take to avoid this incurable disability, but doctors say that autism is an invisible disability, therefore, it cannot be detected if the child you have in your womb may have autism. However, doctors say that a change in your lifestyle during pregnancy can reduce the risks. But one way to reduce autism during pregnancies is getting vaccinated against the German measles (Rubella).
Autistic children often have a different type of way of behaving compared to other kids, one of the behavioural differences is that they often make repetitive movements, for example rocking in their seat or flapping their arms due to their emotions. They also prefer to be alone, so when they are seen playing alone they are actually having fun. They also don’t appear to understand simple questions as well as taking things very literally, they often hit or bite other individuals. And another behavioural characteristic is that they can be extremely hyperactive or completely disconnected during times where they’re at noisy/ busy place. These behavioural characteristics affect these children in their school life because they are often isolated from other children due to the fact that they can be violent at times and sometimes they have a special needs teacher next to them at all times. This makes them really hard for them to make friends, researchers say that “that working in pairs may be beneficial in teaching autistic children. These students have problems not only with language and communication but with socialization as well. By facilitating peer interaction, teachers can help these students make friends, which in turn can help them cope with problems. This can help them to become more integrated into the mainstream environment of the classroom”. However, teachers often don’t do much to help autistic children, instead, they isolate them from the rest. This impacts them negatively because it will then lead to low self-esteem and confidence too.
There are many things schools can do to improve autistic children school experiences. One of them is by making sure all staff have special needs teacher training. I say this because teachers are meant to make every student feel like they are getting their best school experience as well as being able to give them the knowledge that will benefit them later on in life as well as creating well-functioning Individuals. However autistic children are often isolated in the classroom and are taught separately by another teacher. Also, they don’t get the same full filling experience as the other children. Another thing school should do to help autistic children is by giving them free speech therapy. Because autistic children have delayed speech and giving them therapy and helping them work on it will help them immensely. Autistic children are known to have difficulties socialising with other people and building relations, this is why I believe one of the interventions schools should use should be social skills groups. This should take 3x a week and it should run for 20 minutes. This will help them break out of the shell. Another intervention that is scientifically proven to work should be lunch buddies and helping them build friendships. Lastly, to help lower anxiety there should be prepared for new things, such as students, different subject or even the introduction of new teachers. This is important because autistic children often don’t like changes and in order to lower their anxiety levels or annoyance a preview of certain new things that are about to happen to be considered.
In conclusion, autism is a developmental disability that affects many, however, it’s not always a bad thing when somebody has autism. In fact, autistic people have many positive traits, one of them being that they live in the moment, “ People on the autism spectrum truly attend to the sensory input that surrounds them. Some see the beauty that others miss, though they pass by it every day. Many have achieved the ideal of mindfulness, even if they don’t have the tools to communicate their state of mind to others” (Very well Health). They are also very naïve and never lie, which is rare to find in people, this is why they should be protected all the time and not misunderstood.
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