Autism Symptoms

Therapists who are dedicated to learning the principals of Applied Behavioral Therapy in order to help treat children with autism symptoms will soon learn that each child has their own strengths and weaknesses.

The varied autism symptoms may make the disorder extremely difficult to detect. While some children acquire language and can play appropriately, others can be mute and play in odd eccentric ways.

As with many other parents, Catherine Maurice, author of, “Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism” (1993) was puzzled by her daughter’s peculiar behaviors at 1 year of age. Maurice, however, brushed off any of her daughter’s behaviors to, “the uniqueness of [Anne-Marie’s] personality,” since, “she was passing her regular pediatric checkups with flying colors” (p.5).

It is true, as in Maurice’s case, that in approximately 20% of children with autism, development is normal in the first 2 years of life (DSM IV, 1994). Between the second and third year of life, however, parents report a regression of language and then finally an abrupt stop in development.

According to the DSM IV (1994), there are core deficits or behaviors that are lacking and excesses meaning behaviors in autism that must occur before the age of 3 for a proper diagnosis.
Here’s somewhat of an autism symptoms checklist

Deficits In Autism

  1. Communication – Impairments in communication are primarily associated with expressive language, meaning some children with autism are delayed in talking. As well, some have a hard time with receptive language or understanding what is said to them.

    Language can be delayed, or non-existent in which other forms of communication might be used. An example of an alternative form of communication is Picture Exchange Communication (PEC). PEC uses pictures as symbols of communication.

    Language can also be impaired in the form of a lack of spontaneity (i.e. “I see a car”) or reciprocal statements (i.e. “Tickle my tummy”), pronoun reversal (i.e. “This is your [instead of my] bedroom”), echolalia in which children repeat words said to them, and in pitch and rhythm.

    When children do acquire some language, it can be extremely limited and can largely encompass an array of unique idiosyncrasies such as phrases from books, movies, songs or funny sounding words like “gasoline” which can be spoken during inappropriate times.

    Receptive understanding of language is also affected in most of the children with autism. An impairment of receptive language may cause enormous frustration for children trying to understand what is spoken to them and for parents who ask children to do simple commands such as, “go get your shoes and coat.”

    Parents often complain that the first sign of something wrong was that their child did not respond to their own name.

  2. Play – The areas of parallel, associative, cooperative, imaginary and interactive play can also be impaired in children with autism.

    Some children with autism unfortunately do not know how to play since they may lack imitation skills. When they do play they usually engage in perseverative play of doing the same actions over and over again.

    They can also form ritualistic patterns during play in which play sequences must be exactly the same each and every time.

  3. Social Interaction – Social interaction can be severely affected since the word, “autism” means to be “isolated” from others.

    Deficits in social interaction can take the form of a lack of sustained eye contact, asking questions, nonverbal cues such as tapping a person’s shoulder to get their attention and including other people in their play.

    Children with autism also may not recognize other people as sources of social enjoyment and might prefer to be isolated from others since it is more reinforcing to be alone and comfortable than to be forced to engage with other people.

Excesses In Autism

Autism can also be characterized by a series of marked excesses. Besides perseverative and ritualistic behaviors, self-stimulatory behaviors can also exist in children with autism.

  1. Self-Stimulatory Behavior – These behaviors appear to look odd to others since they are developmentally inappropriate for some children. Examples of self “stims” include verbal (i.e. repeating a word), visual (i.e. using your peripheral vision to look at objects up close) or tactile (i.e. licking books).
  2. Self-Injurious Behavior -Children with autism can also exhibit self-injurious behaviors or severe aggression and tantrums. As well, some children can be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to any of our five senses.

Children with autism can also have strengths in a variety of domains. For instance, some children may learn to read before they talk. Others may be gifted in music or academia.

These splintering of skills make up what autism is, and it is through ABA that therapist’s and program supervisors even out these skills. They do this by increasing behaviors that were never learned such as imitation and language and decreasing inappropriate behaviors such as tantrumming or hitting other people.

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