What Is Autism?

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Articles abound on what causes autism, how to treat autism, support for parents of children with autism, but do you actually know what autism is? As an educator, knowing how to spot the signs of autism is one thing but actually being aware of what autism is, is completely different.


Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which are characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, and severely limited interests and highly repetitive behavior. These symptoms do not mean sickness, fragility, or emotional disturbance at all. The syndrome of autism is severely incapacitating and a life-long disability. It is best described as a neurological dysfunction. However, the exact nature or type of dysfunction has not yet been determined. Originally autism was thought to be a rare disorder, more recent studies have estimated the preponderance of autism and related disorders to be as high as 20 per 10,000 live births. Autism tends to be three-to-four times more common in boys than girls.


Autism itself is as diverse as the people who have it. The symptoms and severity levels vary greatly, and generally two autistic individuals will have more differences then similarities. Currently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is used by the medical professionals to diagnose autism based on the behavioural criteria outlined. Generally autistic individuals display the following behavioural characteristics:


  • Impaired ability to engage in social interaction;
  • Impaired communication skills; and
  • Specific behavioral patterns (e.g., preoccupation, resistance to change, adherence to nonfunctional routines and stereotyped and repetitive behaviours).


There are other characteristics associated with autism that are not always present (nor do they need to be present for an autism diagnosis) but do occur frequently in autistic individuals, such as:


  • short attention span / impulsivity;
  • self-injurious behaviors;
  • odd responses to sensory input;
  • abnormalities of mood;
  • an uneven profile of skill development;
  • abnormalities in eating, drinking or sleeping;
  • unusual fears or anxieties; and
  • the presence of special abilities.

Research shows that the most successful method for treating and educating autistic persons involves structured and intensive behavioral involvements. Through effective intervention autistic individuals can be assisted to fulfill their unique potential and lead more productive lives. However there is no "right answer" in the treatment of autism and each case is completely different


For more information on autism visit Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org.

By Jodi Sonoda

Jodi has been blogging for over 3 years, and is excited to currently be blogging with Nexxt for collegejobbank.com, realestatejobsite.com and educationjobsite.com. She is attached to the internet at the hip and enjoys the constant connection. She spends most of her offline time playing dolls and reading picture books with her two year old. You can also occasionally find her rocking the mic at karaoke night.


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