Autistic Spectrum Disorder is complex and the needs of children in this group can differ greatly as they range from mild to severe. Children with ASD generally to a lesser or greater degree exhibit a triad of impairment that encompasses difficulties in 3 main areas:
Language impairment across all modes of communication: speech, intonation, gesture, facial expression and other body language.
Rigidity and inflexibility of the thought process resulting in resistance to change and obsessional or ritualistic behaviours.
There are difficulties with social relationships, poor social timing, lack of empathy, rejection of normal body contact, inappropriate eye contact.
The causes of these are still open to debate although as it does appear evident from birth it may therefore have some genetic predisposing factors. The overview is that these children/adults will have a different way of interpreting the world.
Often a child may not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis but will still display a particular behaviour that shows impairment in one or more areas. Testing will take place using diagnostic and physiological means which will be looking for the following symptoms:
- Less responsive to eye contact
- Repeated body movements, such as rocking
- Dependence on routine
- Obsessive interests in certain objects, activities or people
- Self harming such as head banging
- Aggressive behaviour towards other children
- Sensitivity to light touch or other sense areas
- Language develops slowly or not at all
- Words used without usual meaning or gestures used instead of words
- Short attention span
- Little interest in making friends, taking part in pretend games or imitating others
- Inability to join in spontaneous or imaginative play with others
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be of average intelligence and often have better communication skills than Autistic children. Some common features are as follows:
- Literal thinking
- Obsession with certain topics that lead to exceptional knowledge in one area
- Talking or lecturing at another child rather than engaging in a 2 way conversation
- Excellent memory
- Difficulties with social interaction…monotonous speech tone
- Poor motor co-ordination
- Difficulty in understanding and appreciating other peoples feelings and perspectives
- Difficulties in reading social cues
- Little empathy for others