What Is Autism?
Autism is a disorder which is diagnosed using the DSM-IV criteria by a team of professionals including a Paediatrician, Speech Pathologist and Psychologist.
An outline of these criteria can be viewed at http://ani.autistics.org/dsm4-autism.html Autism is mainly seen as a social and communication disorder with children having a restricted range of behaviours and interests.
Autism is a spectrum disorder and so consequently those diagnosed with autism may present very differently. Every child with autism presents differently because the reasons why that child is having the social, communicative and behavioural issues are different.
My child for example has:
- dyspraxia (motor planning problems)
- low motor tone and retained infant reflexes
- central auditory processing disorder
- sensory integration dysfunction and
- food allergies
The combination of these issues meant that:
- he did not process information correctly to learn how to speak
- motor planning and tone issues made word formation and physical activity difficult and heightened anxiety levels
- food allergies made him ‘zone out’ and have behavioural issues
- the sensory processing issues made every day activities overwhelming and it was impossible to function, let alone learn anything
When the issues were identified and worked on individually he began to calmer, be present, learn, communicate and interact. Most of the behavioural issues were his solution to an underlying problem he was experiencing.
There are many good websites with detailed explanations of what autism is and is not. I urge you not to forget your own child’s individuality when viewing this information and keep an open mind as to what may be triggering some of the ‘autistic’ responses. We have never encountered a negative reaction from my son that did not have a valid reason for occurring. It may have taken a year for him to communicate to me why he behaved in a certain way or reacted as he did, but we have learnt that for HIM the response at the time was real and valid.
Because autism is a communication disorder is makes it so much harder to work out what is going on for our children. Please give them the benefit of the doubt. It can be so frustrating and hard going but don’t underestimate your child’s ability to understand (or not understand) even though they can’t communicate in language you comprehend. Don’t get stuck on the label and assume that your child reacts or behaves in a certain way because they are ‘autistic’.
For them it may be a calming technique, sensory support, overload or motor planning issue. The puzzle is working out how to identify each issue where possible, support and trust the child and learn different ways to grow and achieve your goals and aspirations as a team. The therapies on this website will hopefully help you do just that.