Autism can seem mysterious to people that have not experienced someone with the diagnosis in their family or know people that have the diagnosis. It can leave one feeling uncertain about how to respond to someone who does not make eye contact or respond with enthusiasm. One might ask “how do I communicate with someone with the diagnosis?”
One thing we know for sure is that not all persons are the same regardless of the diagnosis. It can range from mild to severe in symptoms and functioning. Only a doctor or psychologist can diagnose it, and they do not use a blood test or medical test to detect it. They must look at behaviors and development stages of a person. There is not a known single cause other than differences in brain structure and function. Brain scans show that there is difference in the structure when compared to others without the symptoms. It is treated with behavioral therapy to learn skills to interact with others better and manage emotions. It can be assessed as early as two years of age and is four times more likely to be diagnosed in males. Forty percent of children do not speak.
Many persons start at a young age appearing distant from others and not responding to their name being called, and they lack eye contact. Their face and voice tone do not show emotion, and they may not join in with others to play or do activities. They have interest in certain objects they repetitively play with such as lining up cars and other repetitive behaviors. Difficulty transitioning from routines and activities is common and inability to process sensory inputs from the environment. They may cover their ears or eyes because the sounds and sights literally hurt or are too strong compared to the general populations experience. Certain textures of food and fabrics or flashing lights can feel extremely strong to them. Their brain does work the same for them to pick up on the social cues that everyone else learns to express themselves, but they do love and care about others.
Reasons for Challenging Behavior
As mentioned above, persons with Autism have difficulty with unstructured time and are sensitive to their environment. The overwhelming feeling, they experience with the sensory inputs can create stress and anxiety. The sensory overload makes it difficult for them to focus, and they may become irritable and resistant due to discomfort. They do have feelings, but they struggle with how to express them in way that others understand. A change in their routine, transitioning from activities, feeling hungry, tired or sick can make it difficult for them to express themselves, and they get angry or frustrated. Signs of stress can be pacing, rocking, or repeating the same question.
Tips for Interacting
Speak clearly and precise in short sentences so that children feel less overwhelmed. Using pictures of items can help them communicate their needs. Activities that relax children are bubbles, music, and swimming, when talking with teens use their name and ask questions about their interest. Address adults as you would anyone and say what you mean directly. Take time to listen and wait for responses. They need our respect and love.
written by Lisa Richardson