Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions that were previously considered separate — autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and an unspecified form of pervasive developmental disorder. Some people still use the term “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorder begins in early childhood and eventually causes problems functioning in society — socially, in school and at work, for example. Often children show symptoms of autism within the first year. A small number of children appear to develop normally in the first year, and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age when they develop autism symptoms.

-by Navya Nikitha

Symptoms and Identification

A child is diagnosed with Autism usually exhibits these symptoms- 

  • Problems with socialisation: For example- usage of non-speech behaviours for social interaction are difficult. Difficulty using gestures, facial expressions etc in their interactions with others. Students with autism may also have difficulty and fail in developing peer relationships. There is also a lack of social or emotional response when other people try to get their attention. 

  • Problems with communication: There might be a delay or lack in spoken language. Others have delayed language, and might not use all parts of language. Those who don’t have trouble with language might have trouble starting or keeping up on conversations. Another noteworthy aspect is the lack of varied spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play.

  • Repetitive and inflexible behaviours: They could have obsessions with limited and inflexible interests. They also may obsess over parts of objects instead of the whole. Finally, they may have inflexible and repetitive body movements, which are referred to as self-stimulatory behaviours (SSB) or stimming. Some examples of these are hand flapping, toe walking, spinning in circles, eye gazing, oral stimulation, or through tactile and olfactory stimulation.

-by Isabella Panthenal

How does Autism affect learning?

Autism affects the person’s ability to socialize and communicate, and their developmental rate differs from their peers. Even with this, every person with ASD is different as it is a spectrum disorder. 

The following are few points on autism’s impact on learning:

  • DELAY IN ACQUIRING LEARNING SKILLS: People with autism have different rates of development and hence, might acquire few basic learning skills such as remembering and organizing work late in life.
  • VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT ISSUES: Some are generally slow in acquiring the linguistic part of their life and face difficulties in communicating and socializing, whilst on the other hand, they might be excellent learners of Maths and Art. Their behavioral pattern also affects the non-verbal aspects of communication, and for this, sign language can help.
  • ATTENTION SPAN: Autistic people are exceptional with details but sometimes fail to see the bigger picture. Although they tend to be more focused on things they find interesting, they also tend to lose attention and get distracted easily by sounds, bright colors, and slight movements. 

-by Snehal Parab

What do education system do to help children with autism?

Children with special needs such as autism have undergone many educational reforms, some of which include:

Special Education Grants – Schools receive grants to support all children with special educational needs. Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) – RTLB are subject teachers who work across multiple schools. They support schools in meeting their students’ learning and behaviour needs. 

Communication services –  This is to help children who speak, hear or understand language poorly. This usually includes children in the first three grades of school. Speech therapists assess the patient’s communication skills and identify needs.

-by Sneha Rani

How can Autistic children be helped?

Children who are diagnosed with autism or another type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggle with social relationships, sensory awareness, communication, and behavior challenges. These challenges range from mild to severe and can vary in each child.

Strategies to Help Children Cope with Autism:

  • Identifying what triggers strong reactions or meltdowns.
  • Using clear and concise language
  • Looking for ways children with autism are trying to communicate
  • Providing a set of daily routines and letting children know of any changes
  • Make directions clear, short, and concrete

-by Goli Prasanna