Autism Fact Sheet for Parents
When your child is diagnosed with autism
it is a bewildering experience to say the least. The most comprehensive
definition on autism has been brought out by the Autism Society of America
(ASA) In lay terms, it is a neurological disorder that affects the way
the child reacts to people and the environment ( social bonding), learns
language or communicates needs.
The characteristics are generally apparent by
age three. Autism is like a designer label, unless all the criteria are
not met, professionals hesitate to label the child as having autism.
The label "mild autism" does not mean
that you have a smaller problem on your hands. Whatever the degree of
autism and mental retardation, your child will learn and progress, if
handled by trained persons. However the core feature of autism will remain
life-long. In India a national survey has not been conducted to determine
the prevalence of this disorder; according to a WHO report it is one out
of 10, 000.
If all the shades of autism ( spectrum disorders)
are included, it is more likely to be one out of 1000. Four times more
boys have autism than girls. Genetic research indicates that (shades)
of autism runs in families. At this time,
we still do not know why autism happens.
Characteristics of autism are:
- Difficulty in relating to others
- Resistance to change
- Stereotyped behaviour (motor)
- Echolalia and literalness in language
- Attachments to objects rather than humans
- Obsessive and or compulsive behaviours
- Sleep and eating problems
- Poor pretend play and lack of imagination
- Inability to express pain or hurt
- Deficit in pragmatics ( social nuances) of
language and communication.
- Good rote memory (in speaking kids)
- Language is mostly self taught
- Fascination with language
- Good visual spatial memory
- Perseverence in getting needs met
- Very methodical and organized
Autism if defined by an educator can be termed as a learning disability.
The children with autism are visual rather than auditory learners. Most
of the children react adversely to high decibel sounds and general noise,
learn well one to one, and are comfortable with adults than with age peers.
Children with autism are concrete thinkers. Level of stress and anxiety
is heightened when changes from the ordinary happen to the daily routine.
Wait period is always very traumatic to children with autism.
What your child requires:
a) a good communication system which is universally
b) a sound behaviour management plan.
c) structured ( the child should know what
to expect) daily life routine.
d) trained personnel who know the functioning
of the child.
e) consistency in the manner all the caregivers
"talk" to the child.
f) a learning environment where the child
can interact with children without autism.
g) daily routine should have some choice
making option for the child.
h) Sensory integration therapy ( by a trained
i) Auditory Integration Training
j) Stress relief
IRIS can assist you in finding or developing
these resources in your community.
Some of the therapies available ( in the US) are
appended in this site; this is not exhaustive, nor complete, as and when
more information is available the same will be included, bear in mind
that if a method works go for it, abandon it if a better option appears.
Do not strait jacket your child into fitting a method. Developmentally
too, what suits at a particular stage may not be suitable at a later stage.
Founded by Dr. Barry Kauffman, a parent and a psychologist who claims
to have "cured" his son of autism ( has video documents).
Parents of "selected" children are required
to stay with the specialists at the institute at Sheffield, Massacheussetts,
and the interventions are carried out round the clock. Only two children
are treated at one time which perhaps justifies the prohibitive cost.
The philosophy behind treatment is that we have to accept the child with
his/her autism, rather than try to change the child to suit us, second
the chid is always given options or choices so that some amount control
is given to the child rather than being controlled. Not all children with
autism are eligible for the programme. The efficacy of option method has
not been open to research, so the educational community at large has not
accepted the methodology.
For more information contact:
Founded by Dr. Kiyokitahara of Japan, the school at Boston is perhaps
the only segregated residential school in the country. Higashi in Japanese
means daily living, the philosophy is based on the fact that autism is
a motor disorder, hence intense physical exercises are carried out through
out the day, and classroom activities are structured in between. Instead
of individualized educational programming, the group is responsible for
modifying the person's behaviour. Longitudinal studies have not been conducted
on the Higashi method.
One of the earlier professionals to work with children with autism was
Dr. Lovaas Ivar, who because of his behaviouristic orientation, applied
the principles of operant conditioning to teach new skills.
In 1966 Lovaas and his associates conducted studies
to teach verbal skills to children with autism through imitation. They
met with some success. Children with autism learnt new words and socially
appropriate responses. This method gained approval in the field of education
as well and came to be known as "Lovaas Method".
The underlying philosophy is that autism is a
manifestation of semantic conceptual deficit. The main draw back in this
method was that the children did not learn to generalize the language.
Some practitioners feel that the severe behaviour modification plan is
not autism friendly.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Dr. A. Jane Ayres, an occupational therapist with a Ph.D in Educational
psychology, began her research in the late sixties that laid the foundation
for a eurobehavioural orientation to occupational therapy. Sensory Integration
Therapy is based on the premise that the brain is a "self organizing
system". Treatment is based on purposeful movement that causes the
individual to respond adaptively and requires a response that is more
mature than the previous one. Children who experience learning difficulties
have inadequate integration of vestibular and proprioceptive inputs. Children
with autism respond well to S.I.T. Boston boasts of the oldest college
in occupational therapy, therapists are required to be certified in SIT.
Founded by Dr. Eric Schopler in the early seventies, the major shift has
been in the way autism is viewed. Autism is considered a learning disability,
where the usual methods do not work. The main purpose of the curriculum
is to teach the child with autism, communication skills versus speech
skills. The center at Chapel Hill, North Carolina was the first institution
to provide nationwide training programmes for parents and professionals.
Yearly training programmes are conducted for people interested in working
with autism, the duration is usually for a week.
Interventions are individualized. In the
public schools in the US, teachers who handle children with autism are
expected (not mandated) to have undergone some autism specific programme,
hence the inservice training programmes conducted by TEACCH is very popular.
The training is very hands on and lectures are kept to the minimum. The
main emphasis is on remodelling the environment for the child with autism
(the classroom or the home) is to visually structure the same.
For more information contact:
Visually Mediated Communication
Visually mediated communication was developed by Dr. Hogdon, a speech
pathologist. Her book " Visual Strategies for improving communication"
(1996) is a must read manual. The intervention shifts from expressive
language to enhancing the receptive language of the child. The tools thus
developed help the child in understanding the every day demands which
ultimately would lead to effective communication. The method works with
children diagnosed as Asperger's, ADHD, LD and Traumatic Brain Injury
Auditory Integration Training (A.I.T)
Dr. Guy Berard a French E.N.T specialist accidentally found out that children
with acute hearing behave in a typical manner. His work with patients
with hearing problems like tinnitis, is recorded in his book "Hearing
equals behaviour" makes very compulsive reading. Ms Stehli, mother
of a child with autism has written a book where she says her child had
an acute hearing problem and after AIT she is a changed person, one who
Persons trained in AIT are only allowed to carry out the programme for
the child. Dr. Bernard Rimland, a parent, and professional endorses the
methodology. (Dr. Bernard is the author of the E2 checklist for autism
) Ms. Sharda Ramlakhan is a parent of a child with autism and a certified
AIT practitioner. People interested in learning more about the therapy
are advised to contact her.