Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are developmental disabilities that can cause significant impairments in social, communication, and behavioral skills. The term ASD covers a broad range of disorders. These disorders include Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified.

Childcare professionals can identify possible signs of ASD in children at an early age by being familiar with its characteristic symptoms. This allows for earlier interventions and a potentially better outcome. There are three general categories of impairments in children with ASDs.

Issues with Social Development

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders often have trouble relating to others. There is often a lack of social awareness including an understanding of social concepts such as taking turns, body language, or appropriate emotional response. They typically display limited play skills and can often be seen playing alone.

Children who have ASDs may have trouble maintaining consistent eye contact and there may be little to no eye contact at all. It is also common to see resistance to affection or cuddling from others, including parents or caretakers.

Issues with Communication

Some children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder show a delay in language development, with some never using language at all. Within the first five years, a number of communication issues can arise. There may be delays in initial forms of communication such as babbling or cooing. There may also be decreases in the responsiveness to various verbal requests or bids for attention.

Children with ASDs will often use repetitive language that is based on repeating what they hear (often referred to as echolalia) or the creation of nonsensical communication. In addition to these problems, children with ASDs may have trouble with imaginative concepts and figurative language. Instead, they tend to understand things in a much more literal sense. However, just because language delays may be present does not mean that a child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and some children with ASDs do not have language problems at all.

Repetitive Behavior and Interests

It is common for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to exhibit unusual behaviors or interests. There are many types of repetitive behaviors that may be seen in children with ASDs. These behaviors have been categorized into several groups which include stereotypical movements such as hand flapping or rocking in place; compulsory behaviors such as arranging toys in a certain manner; resistance to changes in routine or environment; ritualistic behaviors involving daily activities or schedules; and restricted behaviors that are limited in focus, such as a preoccupation with a certain toy or television program.

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