Often under-diagnosed and overlooked, autism affects around 1 in every 100 children. Today, increased awareness and growing numbers of education options are creating an environment for those diagnosed with autism to enjoy a better-quality of life. Here’s our simple guide to understanding autism and knowing what you can do for your autistic child’s future.
What is Autism?
Autism (or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects one’s social interaction abilities, communication, behavior, and information processing. As a spectrum disorder, it ranges from mild to severe – some individuals may be highly verbal and socially engaged, while others may be non-verbal and face social interaction challenges.
Characteristics of Autism
Though varied from one individual to another, common characteristics of autism may include:
Social communication challenges: E.g., difficulty with eye contact, understanding nonverbal communication, or social cues.
Repetitive behavior /routines: Strong attachments to routines or rituals and may become upset if these routines are disrupted.
Sensory sensitivities: Heightened or reduced sensitivity to sensory input, such as sound, touch, or taste.
Restricted interests: Have a narrow range of interests and become fixated on specific topics or activities.
It is crucial for today’s society to dispel autism myths so that our autistic children can enjoy a more inclusive and supportive social environment!
Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting or a lack of love and affection.
Fact: There is no evidence to support this. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that is possibly caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Myth: All autistic individuals have intellectual disabilities.
Fact: While some autistic individuals do have intellectual disabilities, many others have average or above-average intelligence. It is important to recognize and support the unique strengths and abilities of every autistic individual.
Myth: Autistic individuals lack empathy.
Fact: Autistic individuals may have difficulty with social communication and understanding others’ perspectives, but this does not mean they lack empathy. Many autistic individuals are highly empathetic and caring individuals.
Myth: Autism is curable.
Fact: Autism cannot be cured. However, with appropriate support and interventions, autistic individuals can learn to manage their challenges and nurture their strengths.
Myth: Autistic individuals are all the same.
Fact: Every individual with autism is unique with their own set of strengths, challenges, and needs. An individualized approach to support and care for each person is important to address their specific needs and strengths.
Causes of Autism
Autism is yet to be fully understood. However, research shows that the exact causes of autism may involve multiple factors, such as:
Genetics: Researchers have identified several genes that may influence the development of autism due to the condition’s strong genetic component.
Environmental factors: E.g., exposure to certain toxins or infections during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism.
Brain development: Abnormalities in brain development may play a role in the development of autism.
To date, there is no accurate test to diagnose autism, making this a challenging and time-sensitive task. Typically, a diagnosis is made through a comprehensive evaluation based on a child’s behaviour and development, by parents, caregivers, and teachers.
Screening for autism is recommended to be done as early as 18 to 24 months of age, by The American Academy of Pediatrics, using a standardized screening tool. During the screening, should any concerns arise, they are identified and further evaluated if needed.
Early intervention and treatment are crucial to give an autistic child the best possible quality of life. Treatment options for autism include:
Speech and language therapy: Helps individuals with autism improve their communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal.
Occupational therapy: Helps individuals with autism improve their motor skills and learn to navigate sensory input.
Medications: Medication may be recommended to treat specific symptoms of autism, such as anxiety or irritability.
Inclusive Education for Autism
Children diagnosed with autism will benefit greatly from an inclusive and holistic education. This is how Joyous Education can support your child’s development:
Individualized Education Plans (IEP)
Address the specific needs of each child and helps them achieve functional goals using varying levels of prompts, e.g., specialized instruction, varied difficulties, assistive technology.
Accommodating Sensory Needs
Address the specific needs of each child and helps them achieve functional goals using varying levels of prompts, e.g., specialized instruction, varied difficulties, and assistive technology.
Joyous Education encourages parents and teachers to cooperatively identify and maximize the strengths of every autistic child. This enables them to increase their self-esteem and self-value as well as promote motivation and participation in learning.
Society today is becoming more educated in building an inclusive and supportive environment for those with autism to interact and live in. Joyous Education is part of this effort, and we pride ourselves in providing the right guidance for those who want to learn and do more for autistic children.
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