What is Autism?


Autism is a complex developmental disorder that occurs in the first three years of life. There is disturbance in development in three main areas

TRIAD OF IMPAIRMENT

  • Communication (both verbal and non verbal)
  • Social understanding
  • Learning style and thinking process (strong visual learners, but difficulties in imaginative and abstract thinking)

Most Autistic persons have unusual responses to stimuli from the environment. One or more of the senses may be oversensitive (hypersensitive) or under sensitive (hyposensitive).

Such complex impairments manifests in strange unusual behaviors and inability to learn from the environment in the usual way. Much of the strange behaviors are ways in which a person with autism copes with situations where he lacks skills.

Although all individuals with Autism have difficulties in the three main areas mentioned above, these areas of impairment affect each individual in different ways; therefore all individuals with autism are different from one another.

AUTISM IS A QUALITATIVE IMPAIRMENT

It is important to remember that Autism is a qualitative impairment – the skills like communication, an ability to imitate, ability to play and many other skills are present, but not at the level of the child’s peers and at times these manifest unusually.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

  • Autism typically appears during the first three years of life.
  • 80% of those affected are boys.
  • The incidence of Autism is growing at an alarming rate.
  • Studies indicate one child in 100 has ASD.
  • There are over 4 million people with ASD in India.
  • Autism is the third most common developmental disorder.
  • It is more common than Downs Syndrome.
  • In India, Autism is commonly misdiagnosed or misunderstood as mental retardation.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. Individuals may present a wide range of difficulties, from mild to acute. These difficulties can vary widely from one individual to another. Some individual with Autism do not have speech at all, while some have limited speech, which are usually need based, Almost all have difficulties in understanding language.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE AUTISM?

It is like finding oneself in a foreign country, where one does not speak the language or understand the social rules, and has no alternative way of communicating with the people around.

How would one feel? How would one react? How would one cope?

To varying degrees, this is how people with an ASD experience their environment.

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