Childhood & Autism
Impairment in Language Use
Many autistic children do not reach the level of active language use. When there is no significant development in language skills before the age of six, the prognosis is dim and the child will stay autistic. Passive use of language (understanding spoken language) might be well developed, even though this might not seem obvious.
Speech develops more slowly and is filled with unripe elements and a different syntax. These children often do not talk about themselves as I but in the second or third person (pronominal reversal). They also tend to imitate adults with the same intonation or by changing each sentence in a question (echolalia). Some children copy the adult’s language perfectly without understanding exactly what the real meaning is (delayed echolalia). They often use a language with their own words and word combinations from existing words: neologism. Their voice melody is even, metallic or insecure questioning.
Other people’s sayings are taken literally (literalness). Humor, jokes, etc. can thus become very threatening to an autistic child.
What You Should Know About Autism Spectrum Disorders
Impairment in the handling of information
Oversensitivity to sensory sensations makes these children often react with panic or anxiety when confronted with sudden or hefty sensations such as harsh noises or changes in light and darkness.
The skin can also be seen as a large sensory organ, and their skin isn’t considered as a division between themselves and their surroundings. They are very receptive to changes in mood in their vicinity. They can, however, shut out outside impressions by pretending to be deaf or simply pretending not being able to see you. Sometimes they will lock themselves in a cupboard. Sometimes they can become panicky or start a screaming fit due to a small scratch on their hand, while a severe injury on for example their foot will hardly evoke a reaction.
The way they handle food might also be different. They might reject all kinds of food or might for instance only enjoy porridge; their senses are often used in a sensopatic (feel and act) manner: moving fingers quickly back and forth near their ears, moving their open hand up and down in front of their eyes, losing themselves in the changing light fall.
Some may kick on hearing noises. Background sounds are often heard in a crystal clear manner. There is a weak integration of sensory input. Keeping a bird’s eye view and being able to distinguish important from unimportant things is lacking or costs a lot of effort. They often like to smell things or people and often put objects in their mouth.
Remarkably, a lot of these children are fond of music or even musically talented.
Impairment in the motoric and motorial development
Motoric development of a child suffering from autism is usually delayed. Often this development shows leaps and bounds in different dimensions: long periods of status quo, then a sudden acceleration, sometimes after an illness. The rough and fine motor system is often unripe or lagging behind. You can often see stereotyped or ritual behavior like rhythmically walking back and forth. Excitement can lead to fluttering hands and tiptoe walking.
Older children often move their upper body forwards and backwards. Sudden panic or anger can lead to shouting fits accompanied with hitting, kicking or spitting on others.
Sometimes auto mutilation occurs, where the inwardly directed anger can be focused on specific senses, sometimes on other parts of the body, for instance head banging. Over-activity can be alternated with periods of stillness. Facial expressions are often plain and express stupefaction. When they are small, these children often make a perfect, beautiful impression: these are princes or elf children.
Impairment in cognitive development
Nowadays it is assumed that about half of the children suffering autism function on a mentally handicapped level. Some of these children have partial, very talented powers such as a phenomenal memory for figures or certain events. Their imagination and thoughts are very visually oriented.
Working with non-speaking autistics through ‘supportive communication’ has taught us that they are capable of intelligent thoughts but at the same time they have difficulty using language as a medium to express these thoughts. It is clear that ‘normal’ intelligent tests are not fit to work with the autistic child’s different level of consciousness.
Tagged as: Childhood & Autism
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