Autism is a broad range of conditions that are characterized by challenges with:
- Repetitive and restricted behaviors
- Social skills
- Nonverbal and verbal communication
- Maladaptive behaviors
There are many subtypes of autism that are influenced by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Since it is a spectrum disorder, each child has their own distinct set of strengths and challenges.
The way children with autism learn, problem-solve, and think can range from severely challenged to highly skilled. Some children may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may only need partial support, or can even live independently.
In addition, several factors influence the development of autism. Autism may be accompanied by medical challenges like gastrointestinal disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, or other sensory sensitivities.
Signs of autism are usually visible by the age of 2 or 3. Some associated development delays appear as early as 6 months and should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
Effects of autism on social skills
One of the most common signs of autism is issues with social skills — a child with autism often finds it difficult to interact with others. Additionally, if a child is on the spectrum, he or she might show one or more of the following social symptoms:
- Not responding when their name is called
- Not showing interest in talking, playing, or sharing with others
- Preferring to be alone
- Avoiding or rejecting physical contact
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not liking to be comforted when upset
- Not understanding emotions
- Not stretching out arms to be picked up or guided
Effects of autism on communication
A child with autism also finds it difficult to communicate their needs to others. While some children have trouble speaking, others may not talk at all, and some may even lose language skills despite having developed them earlier. Here are some of the communication challenges that they may face:
- Delayed language skills and speech
- Singsong, robotic, or flat voice
- Repetition of the same phrase again and again (echolalia)
- Challenges with pronouns
- Not using common gestures or responding to them
- Inability to focus on the topic when talking
- Not recognizing jokes or sarcasm
- Trouble expressing emotions and needs
- Not getting signals from expressions, tone of voice, or body language
Patterns of behavior with autism
A child with autism often acts in ways that are unusual and has atypical interests such as:
- Repetitive behaviors like jumping, rocking, twirling, or hand-flapping
- Hyper behavior or constant pacing
- Fixations on objects and certain activities
- Specific rituals or routines
- Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, or touch
- Not imitating others’ behaviors
- Fussy eating habits
- Clumsiness and lack of coordination
- Acting without thinking (impulsiveness)
- Short attention span
- Aggressive behavior with self or others
Early intervention benefits
Healthcare providers agree that early intervention can lead to more positive outcomes in the future. A child with autism can have his or her needs assessed and met from dedicated professionals. ABA therapy administered by a professional can help children improve their communication skills and minimize anxiety or socially stressful behaviors.
As children with autism get older and go to school, they can benefit from specialized education plans personalized for them to improve behavior, communication, self-care, and socialization. One of the most impactful therapies that therapists and healthcare providers rely on is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy’s goal is to encourage positive behaviors to improve and teach a wide variety of skills.
Therapies for autism
1. Communication and behavioral therapies
Many therapies such as ABA therapy address a range of behavioral, social, and communication challenges associated with autism. Some activities focus on teaching new skills and reducing challenging behaviors while others teach children to act in social situations and communicate better with others.
2. Educational therapies
Children with autism often respond well to educational programs that are highly structured. Successful programs include a wide variety of activities related to communication, behavior, and social skills and a team of specialists. Studies show that preschool children receiving individualized, intensive behavioral interventions display the best progress later in life.
3. Family therapies
Family members are included in this therapy where they learn how to interact and play with their children in ways that manage social behaviors, promote communication skills, and teach daily living skills.
4. Other therapies
Other therapies such as occupational therapy can teach daily activities, speech therapy can teach communication skills, physical therapy can teach body movements, etc.
Ways to support children with autism
In addition to seeking professional support, children with autism can be supported in many ways at home.
1. Help children feel safe and loved
This is the most important support that can be provided to a child with autism — the more comfortable the child is, the more interactive the child becomes.
2. Consider the environment
Keeping the environment engaging and familiar can work wonders for a child with autism. In addition, having a daily routine planned can minimize unnecessary distractions.
3. Have timetables
Being prepared for new situations will bring the child comfort, allowing them to have a smoother transition into new routines and situations.
4. Slow down
Communicating information to your child in the simplest way possible will give your child more chances to comprehend and be responsive.
Though autism has its challenges, there are several therapies and treatments available, such as ABA therapy, that can help your child cultivate the skills necessary to navigate their daily lives with ease and confidence.
Songbird Therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.