Autism is complex and varied, and there is a lot to learn about it!
What is autism?
Autism is also called autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. This name reflects that there is a wide spectrum — or range — of how severely a child may be affected, and in what ways. It can be very different in different kids.
Autism has to do with brain growth and development. Autistic people may experience the world around them--especially sensory information-- in different ways than what we are used to. It can affect people's social interactions, communication, and behaviors.
Autistic people often have trouble relating to people in ways that we consider typical.
Autism does not limit how smart kids are! Children on the spectrum can be very smart and talented, just like anyone else.
Autism is not a disease and does not need to be "fixed" or "cured". Instead, we need to help adjust people's environment to fit better with the way they experience it.
It's important to try to understand your child from the way the world seems to them. This can be hard, but parents get to know their kids really well! You too will come to understand what your child may be feeling, and how to help them ease their stress and discomfort.
Instead of thinking about how you can "treat" your child to reduce their "behaviors", try to see how you can adapt your child's environment to reduce the sensory or social input that can make them feel overwhelmed.
These are some common characteristics of autistic people:
challenges expressing themselves in typical ways, or reading the expressions of other people
repetitive physical behaviors
extra sensitivity to things like noise, light or textures of clothing
a need to have a very structured routine, and a tendency to get upset easily
Autism can look very different from one child to the next.
Some kids have trouble with things like:
Challenging behaviors that are hard to control
Forming social relationships
Each child will have their own strengths and challenges, and may need different kinds of strategies.
This is why it is so important to take the time to find out what works best for your child. There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer!
Click on the box below to learn more:
Autism is pretty common: 1 in every 44 children is diagnosed with ASD.
It affects people of all ages, ethnicities and income levels. We don't know yet what causes it, but it starts very early as a child's brain is developing.
Autistic children and adults may show their differences in a variety of ways.
Here are some examples:
Speech: some may not talk at all, others may talk very well, but say things that don't always fit with the situation. Even if they don't talk, they may understand everything you say.
Learning: some may be very cognitively impaired. This means they learn very slowly and may act like a child who is much younger. Others may have very high IQs, excellent memories and impressive talents.
Social skills: some seem to have very little interest in interacting with other people. Others may be very social, but interact in awkward ways. Many have trouble forming strong friendships.
Behaviors: some kids have frequent tantrums and meltdowns. Others may be very quiet and docile. Many have repetitive behaviors, like pacing back and forth, flapping their hands or fidgeting with a favorite item. Some fixate on certain topics or objects and find it hard to focus on other things.
Click the link at the bottom of the page to download a more detailed description of autism. (When you click it, it will show up in the bottom left corner of your screen or open in a new tab.)
Sources: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Interactive Autism Network, Autism Speaks
Now that you've learned a bit more about what autism is, let's take a look at what you can do!
The first steps are to connect with support and get ready emotionally. Then we'll talk about the kinds of therapies and strategies that can help you and your child.
Sources: Interactive Autism Network, Autism Society, CDC