Autism is a developmental disorder that affects one’s physical, social, and language skills. It is considered to be a very heterogeneous (widely diverse) condition affecting at least 400,000 people in the U.S. alone. Most people with this disease are diagnosed before the age of three and tend to show symptoms like difficulty communicating, abnormalities in socialization, as well as interests. While there is no cure, there is a wide span of treatments targeted towards things like speech and communication. Examples of some treatments are speech therapy, behavioral management therapy, and medicational treatment. Programs like local support groups can be very helpful when facing the condition or when trying to help family members. Autism in children specifically can be difficult to handle alone. Autism heavily impacts a child’s life, both mentally and physically.
Autism has an impact on a child’s education. Being introduced to anything new can be a lot for a child with autism to handle. With a very vulnerable nervous system, any change in routine or introduction to anything new can trigger unwanted behavior, like tantrums. Children with autism find transitioning to school difficult due to a sensory overload that school brings. ”The sensory bombardment, social strain, and academic demands can tax an already vulnerable nervous system.” (Nason, 238). The bright lights, loud noises, and new faces can be seen as a surprise attack on the child’s nervous system. The change can also cause old behaviors and problems to reoccur. ”Transition to school is known to be a stressful time and a period when new problems can appear or pre-existing difficulties or unwanted behaviours become more marked in children with autism.” (Nason, 130). When transitioning into school, it is better to ease the child into the new environment and build a new routine for them to follow.
Many children with autism struggle academically compared to other students. Along with a sensitive nervous system, children with autism also experience slow processing issues and delayed thinking. “Many have delayed processing issues that make processing slow and taxing.” (Nason, 238). Children with autism will be behind other students their age academically and feel overwhelmed with work put in front of them. For many children with autism, focusing on a certain task may be difficult, which could also put them behind other students. To help the child succeed, breaking the work into smaller parts can be helpful, and won’t seem so overwhelming. ”Kids with autism/Asperger’s often need the work to be broken down into smaller parts, given to them one at a time.” (Nason, 244). Working with the child every step of the way, both emotionally and mentally, through school will help the child to reach their potential and succeed.
Autism affects a child’s family in many different ways. Families can be the best support system for a child with autism, but it can also be difficult for families to deal with all that the child’s condition brings. Families of children with autism go through stress dealing with appointments, diets, therapy, etc. “I tried to summarize the therapy progress, doctor’s appointments, and the school evaluations, and dietary changes, but even skimming the surface of each one left me typing several paragraphs of information.” (Noonan, 95). Autism feels overwhelming for the person who has it, but it can also be a lot to handle for their families who do their best to help them. Supporting children with autism can take many forms. Support can be simple such as helping them establish a routine to help with their anxiety. A very common way to establish routines is through pictures. ”You can’t spend more than ten minutes learning about autism without hearing about picture schedules, but no one had ever been able to explain them to me effectively. Our ECI caseworker had even brought laminating supplies and bits of Velcro so we could make one together early on, except she hadn’t really understood how they were supposed to work, either.” (Noonan, 99). Using pictures can help both the child and their family.
Families of children with autism have to know how to handle the child’s behavior, such as outbursts. With autism comes symptoms such as behavior problems, trouble communicating, and delayed thinking/trouble processing. Families of children with autism must know how to help the child deal with these actions. ”Repetitive behavior problems include stereotyped motor mannerisms, such as hand flapping, restricted interests, inflexible adherence to routines, and a preoccupation for parts of objects.” (Blatt, 2). Dealing with these symptoms can be easier when getting advice from a therapist or doctor. These behaviors may seem odd or may not make sense, but these actions can actually be self stimulating to the child. “..repetitive motor behaviours that do not have a clear functional purpose but can be self-stimulating and include things like nail biting and thumb sucking.” (Williams and Roberts, 158). These behaviors can help the child cope with what they are dealing with on the inside.
Autism has a big impact on a child’s social life. Along with behavioral issues, children with autism also experience trouble communicating and delayed thought processing. Dealing with these symptoms can be difficult and can make it hard for the child to make friends with fellow peers. Children with autism have trouble communicating in different forms. ”Communication problems include delayed or lack of spoken language, poor communication skills, lack of appropriate developmental play, and diminished gestures.” (Blatt, 2). Along with communication issues, children with autism may also experience a delay in thought processing and speech. “Children with autism can experience delayed speech.” (Nall, 3). While the children find it difficult to communicate through words, children with autism communicate through their behaviors. These behaviors can show distress or anxiety, sometimes even frustration. Showing these behaviors, however, can lead to a decrease in the child’s social interactions with peers.”Autism causes a person to establish repetitive behavioral patterns and often impairs their social interactions with others.” (Nall, 1). Even with the behavioral communication, children with autism find it hard to make friends due to their outbursts or “odd” reactions to new circumstances. ”Social communication problems may result in decreased quality of relationships and can lead to social avoidance when severely affected.” (Blatt, 2). Children with autism typically have an impaired social life and find it difficult to make friends in their circumstance.
Autism has an impact on a child’s physical health. Besides of the impaired social, communicational, and mental skills that children with autism face, they also deal with struggles for their physical health. Autism can lead to disorders such as ADHD or sleep disorders. ADHD and sleep disorders are very common in children with autism, due to lack of focus and hyperactivity.
“Individuals with autism typically have executive functioning problems which are shared with those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These problems include impulse control, working memory, and organizational and problem-solving skills.” (Nason, 83).
Sleeping disorders are found in children with autism.”Difficulty sleeping is a very common problem with children on the spectrum. As many as 50 percent of children on the spectrum experience some difficulty sleeping.” (Nason, 86). However, not all symptoms found in children with autism are as easy to treat. Autism can cause behaviors that might lead to some type of self harm. It is common in children with autism to do things like hit their head on something hard, or to hurt themselves in some other type of way when frustrated or stressed. When a child starts to do this, it is important to stop them right away and teach them how to ask for help instead.
Autism has an impact on a child’s mental health. Children with autism can struggle for many reasons. Specifically, they can struggle mentally; children with autism have trouble processing/thinking clearly. ”They often have sensory processing issues, poor emotional regulation, and trouble focusing on task.” (Nason, 168). Processing issues can affect communication and thought processing.”Autistic individuals are not able to think in ways that are necessary to communicate normally (share experiences/express feelings).” (Edwards, 35). Not being able to communicate clearly can not only be frustrating for the child, but can affect their self esteem. It is important to reassure the child that it takes time to improve, but also consider speaking to a speech therapist to give the child an extra boost. But on the other side of mental struggles, children with autism have sensitivities to things like being touched. “Many people with an ASD are very sensitive to being touched or might not want to be held or cuddled” (Autism, 1). It is not uncommon for children with autism to want to be independent/not want to be touched. Even in the infant age, autisic children will express sensitivities. “Autistic infants will not cuddle, and they do not like to be picked up.” (Cramer, 1). Comfort the child when they need it most, but try not to invade their space or disrespect their boundaries.
Affecting more than 400,000 people in the U.S. alone, autism is very widespread and continues to earn more recognition by people all around the world. Autism is commonly found in children and can affect them for their entire lives, both mentally and physically. Dealing with physical issues, such as repetitive behavioral issues and appearances of disorders like ADHD and sleep disorders. Mental issues can be communication difficulties and speech delays can affect a child’s social life, but also education. Families of children with autism can be the child’s best support system when dealing with these struggles, and they can also encourage the child to get better or improve. Speaking to a doctor or physician about possible medication options to help with these conflicts, may help not only the issues but the child’s mentality towards those issues. Building the child’s self esteem could result in better outcomes for other treatments like therapy (speech/language). Children with autism are more likely to succeed with a support system filled with family, peers, teachers, and all of those who choose to believe in the child rather than the disease.