Archive for May, 2008

Autism and Social Behavior

Social skills deficit is thought by many to be the key defining feature of autism. Numerous reports written by parents and researchers describe this challenge. However, like other characteristics of autism, social skills is on continuum for these children, they all face different challenges with social skills.

Some children with autism may avoid virtually all forms of social interaction.  They might have tantrums or run away when someone tries to interact with them. As infants, they may arch their back from a caregiver to avoid contact. Other children with autism might appear socially indifferent because they do not seek social interaction with others (unless it is for a specific need). These chidlren do not seem to mind being with people; but at the same time, they do not mind being by themselves. Other children with autism may try very hard to have friends, but they have a difficult time knowing how to get and maintain relationships. This challenge is common among those with Asperger Syndrome. One reason for their failure to make enduring social relationships with others may be the lack of reciprocity in their interactions, since their conversations often revolve around themselves and their own interests.

Recent research shows that many individuals with autism do not realize that other people have their own thoughts, plans, and points of view.  Researchers term this as “theory of mind.” These individuals also appear to have difficulty understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. As a result, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various social situations, making social situations very challenging for them.

Add comment May 29th, 2008

Early Signs of Autism

Autism is usually diagnosed when the child is 3 to 4 years old, but most parents sense that something is wrong much earlier. On average, parents start to worry about their child’s development by 18 months of age and voice some of their concerns to a doctor or another professional by age 2. Many physicians and professionals are hesitant to diagnose autism at very early ages. If the child is labeled with a problem too early, parents may reduce expectations for the child and restrict the child’s access to typical experiences and opportunities. Thus, professionals may take on a “wait and see” stance that delays diagnosis, and ultimately the commencement of intervention services. Although such concerns are valid, the benefits of early diagnosis vastly outweigh the risks. As many studies have now shown, early intervention is critical for the best outcome in children with autism, and many believe the earlier the better. Only with a diagnosis can parents begin to obtain necessary intervention services for their child. If you have concerns that a child may have autism, there are five big questions you can ask yourself.

1) Does the baby respond to his or her name when called by the caregiver? Typical babies are very responsive to the voices of familiar people, and often respond with smiles and looks within the first few months of life. They also respond to their own name by looking to the person who called them
2) Does the young child engage in “joint attention”?  Typical towards the end of their first year, infants begin to shift their gaze from toys to people, follow other’s points, monitor the gaze of others, point to objects or events to share interest, and show toys to others.
3) Does the child imitate others? Typical infants can imitate body and facial movements. Another way an infant imitates is with common infant games such as pat-a-cake.
4) Does the child respond emotionally to others? Typical infants are aware of the emotions of others, They smile when others smile at them, or if an infants observe another child crying, they may cry themselves, or looked concerned.
5) Does the baby engage in pretend play? Typically pretend play doesn’t begin until the end of the first year. Their first actions may involve pretending to feed themselves, their mother or a doll, brush the doll’s hair, or wipe the doll’s nose.

Add comment May 28th, 2008


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