As some of you may already know, I recently travelled to Singapore to become certified as an Autism Specialist. There, I was fortunate enough to meet many professionals from different countries working with children who have Autism, which inspired me to write this post.
As in any other country, Autism is a reality that many families in Thailand live through each day. While awareness is growing here in Thailand, the understanding of what Autism is and the resources available to support individuals with Autism are still limited. This ‘A’ word lingers on the mind of so many parents, though, not all can bring themselves to talk about it.
This post will address some common questions about Autism.
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means that for children with Autism, the brain does not develop typically.
Children with Autism show these two main features below:
1. Social Communication Deficit: Children with Autism have difficulty with the verbal and non-verbal aspects of social communication or the ‘unspoken rules’ of social interactions.
· These verbal aspects include difficulty with back-and forth conversations, initiating conversations, maintaining conversations or ending conversations. For instance, I have worked with a child with Autism who would not give others a chance to speak during conversations.
· The non-verbal aspects which children find difficult include interpreting emotions, making eye-contact, engaging in imaginative play, understanding 'personal space' and the use of gestures.
2. Repetitive and Restricted Routines: This includes verbal and non-verbal repetitions.
· Children with Autism may repeat things over and over again verbally, which is referred to as ‘echolalia.’ For instance, I have worked with a child who recited the same YouTube video repeatedly.
· They usually display repetitive movements such as hand-flapping and rocking.
· They tend to become very upset and have very low tolerance for a disruption or change in their routine.
· They are either much more sensitive to sensory stimulus around them, or they do not seem to respond to sensory stimulus. For example, I once worked with a child who repeatedly walked around the room to run his hands across all the furniture.
· They might seem ‘obsessed’ with a certain topic of interest which they insist to keep bringing up and talking about.
It is important to understand that the above features differ to varying degrees for each child with Autism. This is because Autism ranges on a wide spectrum. While many children with Autism require significant support, there are also several children with Autism who are high-functioning.
How Common Is Autism?
Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, approximately 1 in 68 children have Autism. There has recently been an increase in the reporting of children with Autism. This can be partly explained by greater awareness and the availability of better diagnostic assessments.
Autism is also five times more common in boys than girls. Moreover, it is more common in families who have a history of Autism.
What Causes Autism?
Unfortunately, little is known about what causes Autism. However, recent scientific research suggests that the cause is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
There has been much controversy around the topic of vaccines causing Autism. It is important to know that there is no scientific evidence to support this.
Can Children with Autism Learn?
Children with Autism can learn so many different things. The extent to which they can learn depends on each child. Children with Autism often learn best through the use of pictures, when things are written down or by physically doing things.
Sadly, there are many children with Autism who do not reach their full potential because they do not receive specialised support. In my next post, I will outline certain strategies and approaches which can be used to support the learning of children with Autism.
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The Expat Speechie
I would like to acknowledge and thank the following sources below where the information for this post was obtained:
1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
2. Autism Speaks. www.autismspeaks.org
3. Baio, EdS, J. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2010 Principal Invesitgators (2014, March 28). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years - Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010., from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.
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