Understanding Autism: Challenges, Communication, and Treatment
Autism’s Communication Challenges
What’s it like to grow up in a world where you feel so different from everyone around you? Where do you feel as if you are slower, weirder, and less privileged than everyone else? People all around the world suffer from things that make them feel this way. According to Autism Speaks, 1 in every 59 children are suffering from Autism (Wright, 2005). The Autism Society (2015) has also found the prevalence of Autism increasing in the United States by 119.4 percent since the year 2000. The Autism Speaks organization defines Autism as a “broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication” (Wright, 2005).
Autism affects one’s speech, language, and communication in a variety of ways. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that children with Autism typically are very self-absorbed and seem to exist in their own private world. They often have limited ability to successfully communicate and interact with others (NIDCD, 2018). Children may struggle with not only developing their own language skills but also understanding what others are saying to them. Some even struggle with communicating nonverbally with things such as hand motions, eye contact, and facial expressions (NIDCD, 2018).
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Most people with Autism have different ways of communication-based on their intellectual and social development. Some are unable to communicate using speech or language; however, some people have limited speaking skills. The Interactive Autism Network (2018) summarizes that individuals with Autism have difficulty with many aspects involving the production and understanding of speech. For example, because of their deficits in social situations, communicating and understanding communication do not feel relevant. Those suffering from Autism have a hard time not only understanding sounds but also attaching sounds to meanings.
Diagnosis and Early Intervention
Although speech can be difficult, individuals with Autism are typically very good at paying attention and appreciating visual materials (IAN, 2018). When thinking about Autism, we never really think about the cause. That’s because there is no single cause for Autism. The Autism Society says that Autism is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in the brain structure or function (Autism Society, 2015). Brain scans of people with Autism show differences in the brain’s shape compared to a normal brain. There are also a number of theories being investigated about the links between this disease and heredity, genetics, and medical problems (Autism Society, 2015).
Many families show patterns of Autism related disabilities. While no gene has been identified as causing Autism, the Autism Society says there are irregular genetic segments of genetic code that children with Autism may have inherited (2015). Certain environmental exposures in the womb have also been found to develop Autism in a child, says the National Center for Health Research (2018). Researchers are still known to be investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections and exposure to certain chemicals that could be causing Autism (Autism Society, 2015).
Autism is diagnosed in a variety of ways. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), diagnosing Autism is very difficult because you cannot medically test for it. Doctors typically look at the child’s development and behavior to diagnose Autism. Autism can be detected at 18 months or younger (CDC, 2015). Developmental screening can be done to test if a child is learning their basic skills for their age group and if their development is delayed.
Doctors typically ask parents questions as well as engage with the child to see how they learn, speak, behave, and move (CDC, 2015). The Autism Society (2015) states that some individuals with Autism may appear at first glance to have sensory processing issues and problems with hearing or vision; however, it is important to diagnose Autism early on to provide the appropriate educational and treatment program. Some early signs of Autism listed by the National Center for Health Research (2018) are no babbling or pointing by the age of one, loss of language or social skills, poor eye contact, etc. Although there is no signal way to diagnose Autism, we have many ways and resources to distinguish Autism.
Treatment and Support Options
Although there is no known cause of Autism, there are many ways Autism can be treated. The Autism Science Foundation (2015) found that the earlier a child receives intervention services, the better the child will progress throughout their life. All children undergoing early intervention benefit, and some may even gain enough skills to soon be able to attend mainstream school. The Autism Science Foundation (2015) sees that the most effective treatments available today are occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. These treatments are meant to maximize one’s functional independence and quality of life. Speech therapy works with one’s deficits in social communication and is a very important treatment option.
With a licensed speech-language pathologist, a person’s communication skills can be improved in order for them to discuss their wants or needs; however, some individuals with Autism are nonverbal and communicate via hand gestures, sign language, and picture communication programs (ASF, 2015). Occupational therapy is generally used for sensory issues that correlate with Autism. It is used to teach things such as simple life skills such as dressing, cooking, and writing. Physical therapy is used for improving motor skills and teaching someone to be aware of their body space. Physical therapists work to improve an individual’s way of participating in everyday activities (ASF, 2015). In addition to these therapies, there are dozens of others that are used to improve the side effects of Autism.
In the end, Autism is a disorder that more than one percent of the American population suffers from (Autism Society, 2015). However, there are many ways that we, as individuals, can help. There are yearly fundraisers for Autism, such as walks, 5ks, and other ways to donate to research. Having a cousin with Autism is something that has inspired me as an individual to get more involved with this disease and do everything I can to inform people.
- Autism Science Foundation. (2015). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autism/treatment-options/
- Autism Society. (2015). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.autism-society.org/what-is/diagnosis/medical-diagosis/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html
- Interactive Autism Network. (2018). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://iancommunity.org/cs/articles/speech_and_language_problems
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2018). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/autism-spectrum-disorder-communication-problems-children#3
- Wright, S. (2018). Autism Speaks. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism