Autism Awareness
Autism is not a disorder some people "get" for example the way you get the flu. Instead, scientists think autism has
its beginnings before a person is even born.

Autism is a spectrum disorder.  The characteristics of Autism can present themselves in a variety of combinations
from mild to severe.  Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors.  Children can exhibit any combination of the
behaviors in any degree of severity.  Two children both diagnosed with the same disorder may act differently from
one another and have varying skills.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.  It impacts the normal development of the
brain in the areas of social interaction and language.
Autism is one of the five(5) disorders under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD),
characterized by severe and pervasive impairments in several areas of development.

Autism and PDD occur in approximately 5 to 15 per 10,000 births. These disorders are four times more common
in boys than girls.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three(3) years of life.  

The disorders under PDD are Asperger’s syndrome, Childhood Disintegrating disorder, Rett’s syndrome and PDD-
NOS (not otherwise specified).

Parents hear different terms used to describe children within the spectrum, such as autistic tendencies, autism
spectrum, high functioning or low functioning.  More important than the terms is to understand that children with
autism can learn and function productively and show gains with appropriate education and treatment.  Early
intervention is key in proper development.  

Early diagnosis and appropriate educational programs are very important to children with autism or PDD.  From the
age of three, children with autism and PDD are eligible for an educational program appropriate to their individual
needs. Educational programs for students with autism or PDD focus on improving communication, social,
academic, behavioral, and daily living skills. Behavior and communication problems that interfere with learning
sometimes require the assistance of a knowledgeable professional in the autism field who develops and helps to
implement a plan which can be carried out at home and school.

Within the first 3 - 6 months of their lives, parents may note the child does not develop a normal pattern of smiling
or cuddling response. As they grow older, they do not progress through developmental milestones such as learning
to say words or speak sentences. Instead, they seem aloof, detached, and withdrawn. Instead of developing a
pattern of relating warmly to their parents, they may instead engage in self-stimulating behavior such as rocking or
head banging. By age 2 or 3 years, it is usually clear that there is something wrong, and the features of the disorder
continue to become more obvious over time as the child fails to develop normal verbal or interpersonal
communication skills.

Children within the autism spectrum may yearn for interaction with others the same age, but this requires the social
skills they lack.  They also have no creativity or flexibility in their play.  They tend to be repetitive and stick to
routine.  Example of play: lines up toys, plays with toys inappropriately, and uses objects as toys.

The classroom environment should be structured so that the program is consistent and predictable. Students with
autism or PDD learn better and are less confused when information is presented visually as well as verbally.
Interaction with non disabled peers is also important, for these students provide models of appropriate language,
social, and behavior skills. To overcome frequent problems in generalizing skills learned at school, it is very
important to develop programs with parents, so that learning activities, experiences, and approaches can be carried
over into the home and community.

Autistic children process and respond to information in unique ways.  In some cases, aggressive and/or self
injurious behavior may be present.

Autistic Markers:
•        Routine/resistence to change
•        Difficulty in expressing needs / lack of speech
•        Repeating word and / or phrases
•        Distress for reasons not appropriate to others
•        Anti-social tendencies / preferring to recluse themselves
•        Tantrums
•        Lack of affections
•        No perception of danger
•        Poor eye contact
•        Inappropriate attachment to objects
•        Unresponsive / ignores when spoken to
•        Over / under sensitivity to pain
•        Annoyed by / frightened by loud noises
•        Sustained odd play
•        Low tolerance to certain textured food

When children display similar behaviors but do not meet the criteria for autistic disorder, they may receive a
diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS (PDD not otherwise specified).

With educational programs designed to meet a student's individual needs and specialized adult support services in
employment and living arrangements, children and adults with autism or PDD can live and work in the community.

High Functioning
About 20% of the autism population are described as high functioning.  There are many terms used in reference to
this group.  Examples are Mildly Autistic, Autistic Tendencies, Pervasive Developmental Disorder(pdd), and Pdd nos
(not otherwise specified).
•        Autism seems to have two(2) tracts
- Congenital (from the beginning)
- Regressive (around 15 - 18 months,
regression noticeable)

•        All forms of Autism include
- Communication / language difficulties
- Sensory issues
- Social deficits

•        Some autistic people also have physical
- Bowel problems
-Sometimes rectified by gluten free, casein free
diet          Developmental Disorders          Autism          Parenting Issues