What is autism?
Autism is a highly variable neurodevelopmental disorder, with symptoms generally appearing within the first two years of a child’s development.
Autism is also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, as the term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Thus, no two people diagnosed with autism are exactly the same.
How is ASD diagnosed?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen include:
- Trouble understanding, talking, reading, or writing
- Having conversations
- Learning to read or write
- Repeat words he just heard or words he heard days or weeks earlier, called echolalia
- Sound robotic or talk in a singsong voice
- Have tantrums instead of telling you what he wants
Social communication / interaction behaviors
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Tending not to look at or listen to people
- Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
- Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
- Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
- Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
- Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
- Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
- Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
- Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
- Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
- Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
- Getting upset by slight changes in a routine
- Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
- Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
- Being strong visual and auditory learners
- Excelling in math, science, music, or art
How is ASD treated?
There is no one single treatment. Generally, the main goals when treating children with autism are to increase social skills and communication, and increase quality of life and functional independence.
What can I do?
There’s plenty you can do to increase awareness about ASD!
Books suggested by Teach for America that feature a character with autism and are ideal for children include:
- Leah’s Voice by Lori Demonia and Monique Turchan
- Keisha’s Doors/Las Puertas De Keisha: An Autism Story by Marvie Ellis and Jenny Loehr
- Tacos, Anyone?/Alguien quiere tacos? by Marvie Ellis and Jenny Loehr
- Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz
For children in middle school and high school, Autism Akron recommends:
- Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopman
- Buster and the Amazing Daisy by Nancy Ogaz
- Lisa and the Lace Maker by Kathy Hoopman
- Wishing on the Midnight Star by Nancy Ogaz
- Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
- A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
- Clay by Colby Rodowsky
- Haze by Kathy Hoopman
- To OZ and Back: A Bones and Duchess Mystery by Alexandra Eden
- A Wizard Alone: The Sixth Book in the Young Wizards Series by Diane Duane
- The Wright and Wong Mystery Series by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
Create some Autism Awareness crafts!
- Explore puzzle piece crafts on Pinterest
- Explore awareness crafts on Pinterest
- Explore other autism awareness activities on Pinterest
- Autism Speaks
- Autism Society
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Scientific American: Autism – It’s Different in Girls
- National Institute of Mental Health: Autism Spectrum Disorder
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) – Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder)