Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Some autism facts and fiction...

It's probably not what you think!

Myth! Children with autism never make eye contact.
Many children with autism establish eye contact. It may be less than or different from the typical child, but they do look at people, smile, and express many other wonderful non-verbal communications.

Myth! Inside a child with autism is a genius.
The myth that a genius is hidden in a child with autism may exist because of the uneven nature of the skills that many children exhibit. Children with autism may have splendid physical skills, but no functional language. A child may remember the birthday of every child in his class at school, yet be unable to determine when to use the pronouns "you" or "me" appropriately. A child may read with perfect articulation and not understand the meaning of what he has read. Children with autism exhibit a full range of IQ scores. Most children with autism will exhibit significant delays in some areas of mental processing. A very small percentage exhibit above normal intelligence; an equally small percentage of children exhibit very low intellectual functioning.

Myth! Children with autism do not talk.
Many children with autism develop good functional language. Most other children can develop some communication skills, such as use of sign language, pictures, computers, or electronic devices.

Myth! Children with autism cannot show affection.
Probably one of the most devastating myths for families is the misconception that children with autism cannot give and receive affection and love. We know that sensory stimulation is processed differently by some children with autism, causing them to have difficulty expressing affection in conventional ways. Giving and receiving love from a child with autism may require a willingness to accept and give love on the child's terms. Sometimes the challenge for parents is waiting until the child can risk a greater connection. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends may not understand a child's aloofness, but can learn to appreciate and respect his/her capacity for connection with others.

More Myths and Misunderstandings about Autism

Progress means that the child doesn't have autism.
Behavior change from maladaptive to adaptive isn't autistic.
Children with autism do not smile at you.
Children with autism do not give or receive physical affection.
People with autism do not notice others and don't pick up cues from peers/adults.
People with autism do not want friends.
Individuals with autism do not relate to peers/adults.
People with autism could talk if they wanted to.
When a child with autism does not respond to a question/direction to which he has previously given a correct response, he is being stubborn/non-compliant/obnoxious.
Autism can be outgrown.
Autism is an emotional disability.
Children with autism cannot learn.
Children with autism will show no imagination.
Bad parenting causes autism.
Autism is rare.

• Facts • Facts • Facts •
There are great differences among people with autism. The range of autistic characteristics exhibited will be different in each person affected. Some individuals may exhibit only mild language delays, while others may have no functional speech. Regardless of language skills, social interactions are typically a challenge for most individuals with autism. They may have average or above average verbal, memory, or spatial skills, yet find it difficult to be imaginative or join in a game of softball with their friends. Others more severely affected may need greater assistance in handling day to day activities like crossing the street or making a purchase. Contrary to common belief, many children and adults with autism will make eye contact, show affection, smile, laugh, and express a variety of other emotions, though perhaps in varying degrees. Like others, they respond to their environment in positive and negative ways. The autism may affect their range of responses and make it more difficult to control how their bodies and minds react. People with autism live normal life spans and some of the behaviors associated with autism may change or disappear over time.

Some people who are very high-functioning have slipped through the cracks, so to speak and have gone undiagnosed their whole lives. Whole groups of the population have identified with Asperger's Syndrome since it started making the papers, many of whom are very succesful in computers and engineering. It is sometimes called the "Engineer's Disease" or "Geek Syndrome."

I am not an alarmist, but if you have a little someone in your life and you think something needs to be addressed in this child's development, now is the time. I encourage you to find an SLP to evaluate him and make sure you tell her/him about any behavior issues. Try to go to this kind of appointment without any other kids unless it is unavoidable. I find I can really concentrate better on the child who I am concerned about if I am not distracted by anyone else. If you have access to a developmental pediatrician or children's phsychologist (esp. one affiliated with a university), go on in, at best your mind will be put to restand you can take your prozac and figure out ways to keep the little dickens engaged. And if something is amiss, you will be that much more ahead of the game.
Beans has been impossible since birth and SO UNBELIEVABLY LOUD! We called her Ethel Mermen when she was a tiny baby. She got kicked out of the nursery at the hospital, no joke. Her behavior issues are intense. Discipling her is difficult and the only technique that is effective is completely ignoring her, but that is hard on the nerves and not too well received in public.
If you doubt yourself too much, then start out by asking anyone who spends time with him what they think. I'd be careful about giving your reason why, just see what they say. Preface it with a request for transparancy. I mean you're not on a praise expedition, KWIM?

BTW if you are wondering, "What exactly is an SLP?"

An SLP is a Speech and Language Pathologist they should encourage you to see an ENT/audiologist too. If they don't I'd find another SLP. Be sure to mention any behavioral problems and be as specific as possible.

Check with Easter Seals. Check with your local Early Childhood Intervention program, but be smart about them because they are only as good as their program.
Texas'..bad. Other state's ECI...pretty good.

Also, there are lots of other issues that can be associated with both speech problems and behavioral problems aside from ASD. Please don't let the "A" word keep you from looking into this stuff.
CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder)is one example:
Symptoms of CAPD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think there may be a problem with how your child processes what he or she hears, ask yourself these questions:

Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises? Scared to death of the vacuum, hairdryer, etc.
Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
Does your child's behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated ones?
Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties? Is abstract information difficult for your child to comprehend?
Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
Are conversations hard for your child to follow?

We suspect Emma Jean has CAPD as well as the dyspraxia. I am pretty sure that anyone that has autism has some degree of APD, but don't quote me on that. I have been told that we will have to wait until Beans is much older to really confirm a true CAPD. I'm checking that out for accuracy. Of you want to read up on CAPD, I read a good book about it called, "When the Brain Can't Hear," by Twri James Bellis, PH.D.
I keep being told that if she does have a CAPD then we are very fortunate that we caught it so young.
You'll have excuse me if I'm not busting out the party horns.


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