Children with autism are unique in every sense of the word; no two children with autism are exactly alike. Each and every one of them has his or her own set of skills that shine a light on what they know and how they think. Autism was thought to be just a boys’ developmental disorder years ago, but more and more girls are finding their diagnostic spot on the spectrum.
Just like children with mental retardation, the level of functioning in children with autism starts at the very low end and ends with children who almost seem as though there is nothing apparently different between them and the “average” child on the very high end. Because there are so many pieces to the puzzle of Autism and Autism spectrum disorders, children can be deficient in social and gross motor skills but be able to speak. Of course, they can also lack self-help skills, not speak at all, but clearly understand what others around them are saying. In the six areas that children with Autism disorders are measured there is as much of a variance as there is between a pineapple and a kumquat.
Careful observation by parents early on in their child’s development in conjunction with regular well-baby visits to the pediatrician will help catch some delays that may signify a possible disorder is present. However, a pediatric neurologist in conjunction with the services of a autism psychiatric specialist will be the only sure-fire way of verifying a diagnosis of autism. Some children will just be behind their peers and others have autism so it is important to involve these three medical professionals in the determination of autism.
Some people might be surprised at involving a pediatric neurologist, but recent studies have shown that the brains of children with autism are quite different than those of average children. Something in the brain development, either while still in the womb or just before a child turns two alters, and changes the child’s life forever, as well as his parents and extended family. Genetic scientists are working on discovering the origins of autism as it appears to be genetic in some families. (I have one boy and one girl who BOTH have Autism/autism spectrum disorder and two second cousins who also have it).
There is no cure for autism as no one has yet figured out what causes it. One thing is certain; children with autism can be very challenging, but they can also be very loving. Some avoid touch at all while others are so cuddly it’s hard to let go. Their hypersensitivity to everything alters their ability to interact with the rest of the world. Some, one or all of their five senses might be hypersensitive; it’s important to log what bothers them and remember to help them work through their fears and/or develop positive coping mechanisms when around the things they are sensitive to.
Higher functioning children with autism have the “savant” skills that often come to mind when people picture “Rain Man”. Some are hyperlexic, showing a reading ability way above their age or grade level, but may not understand idioms, similes, metaphors and other expressions of speech. Some may excel at math but may have a hard time grasping the concept of three dimensional shapes. In many ways these skills are amazing, but really are what most specialists refer to as “splinter skills”.
No matter what, children need love and support just like everyone else.
What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder?