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This entry was posted on May 12, 2015.
Many people have a pre-conditioned idea of what autism means. But – as any parent with a child on the autism spectrum will know – autism disorders are so wide-ranging, that many of these pre-conceptions are completely false.
The word ‘autism’ is used to refer to any individual suffering from one of the main conditions in the autism spectrum, or ASD. These conditions include Asperger syndrome and pervasive development disorder, among others. Because of the different symptoms associated with the different conditions under the ASD umbrella, one person’s experience of autism is likely to be very different to that of another.
Autism disorders affect nerve cells in the brain, which in turn affects the processing and handling of information. This gives rise to many of the behavioural symptoms people most commonly associate with autism. In children, these symptoms often manifest themselves as a fear of change, or as a tendency towards repetitive and ritualistic behavioural traits, such as repeatedly ordering and arranging objects in the child’s environment.
This is also the root cause of ‘autism savantism’, which leads to some individuals in the autism spectrum displaying increased proficiency in tasks which require discrete thought. As children begin their education, parents may notice their child becoming adept at working out complex mathematical problems and developing a pragmatic and rational approach to the world around them. The difficulty some autism individuals have in processing implied information or other more subtle mental stimuli – such as inferences or sarcasm – is the flipside to this coin.
This difficulty in interpreting information is what can lead to social problems for autism children. While the commonly held belief that 90% of all communication is non-verbal is a myth, it is true that around 55% of information passed between people is communicated via body language, inferred meaning and other non-verbal methods.
This can cause great difficulty for autism spectrum children, and can lead to them being excluded from friendship groups and other social interactions. This is also precisely why autism should not be stigmatised or played down. It is vital to recognise your child’s condition, and to work with them to help them accept and deal with it, rather than trying to hide it from them or encouraging them to ignore it.
Specific medical alert bracelets such as autism alert bracelets can be useful in helping your child and those around them deal with the symptoms of autism. These bracelets can ensure that teachers or healthcare professionals are aware of the condition, and they can take the appropriate measures to help with the child’s development. While this might make some parents feel uncomfortable, it is important to deal with such issues head on, as to shy away from them will only exacerbate feelings of exclusion or ‘otherness’ in the child.
A very common misconception is that children on the autism spectrum prefer to be alone, or impose their own mental barriers between themselves and others. In fact, studies have shown that autism children are more susceptible to feelings of loneliness than other children.
This is because individuals with autism tend to have a qualitative rather than a quantative approach to relationships. You may notice that your child forms close bonds with only a few of their peers, but that these bonds are incredibly strong. For an autism child, it is not about how many friends you have, it is the quality of those friendships that is important.
Many parents find the idea of their child having few friends frightening, but this is more linked to societal perceptions of popularity and inclusion than any rational concerns. Instead of pressuring your child into making more friends, take an active interest in their relationships with their existing friends, talking about and discussing these relationships. This will also help to strengthen the bonds between you and your child.
Autism does not equal exclusion from society, it simply poses challenges that must, and can, be overcome. Nurture your child’s potential, foster positive feelings within them and you will find that autism is no barrier to a happy and fulfilled childhood.