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Recognizing People on the Autism Spectrum
Posted 5/26/20 11:31:27 AM by Emily Pazel

Autism spectrum disorder is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears in children before the age of 3, and can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. And believe it or not, autism is generally more common than you think, affecting nearly 1 in 59 children.

If you happen to work with children or are around children more often than not, there is a good chance that you know or will encounter someone living with autism. And it’s important to know how to approach teaching them or having them in your office while keeping them comfortable and at ease. With April being National Autism Awareness Month, we are taking the opportunity to dive into learning more about this disability that affects many different people on many different levels.  

 

What is Autism?

Autism, according to the National Autism Association, is a developmental disability that impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function. Someone living with autism may have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and leisure or play activities. 

People living with autism may repeat certain behaviors and might not want to change their daily routine. Many living with the disability also have different ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to certain triggers. 

Although signs and symptoms may vary from person to person, you can look for certain signs of autism beginning in early childhood that typically last throughout a person’s life, such as:

  • Not pointing or showing interest in objects in front of them (for example, an airplane flying overhead)

  • Not looking at objects when another person points at them

  • Having trouble relating to others or not having an interest in other people at all

  • Avoiding contact with others and wanting to be alone

  • Has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings

  • Prefers not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to

  • Appearing to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds

  • Can be very interested in people, but does not know how to talk, play or relate to them

  • May repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language

  • Has trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions

  • Sometimes, may not play “pretend” games (for example, pretending to “feed” a toy doll or animal)

  • Repeating actions over and over again

  • Having trouble adapting when a routine changes

  • Has unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound

  • Losing skills they once had (for example, if they stop saying words they used to use)

At a young age, it may be hard to distinguish these signs and symptoms from normal adolescent behavior. However, if your child or someone that you might know is exhibiting these behaviors, you may want to look into getting a reliable diagnosis from a medical professional to help with the process. 

 

Can Autism be Diagnosed or Treated?

Currently, there is no medical testing, such as a blood test, for diagnosing someone with an autism disorder. A medical professional will look at the child’s behavior and development over a certain amount of time to determine a proper diagnosis. 

In fact, doctors can sometimes detect that someone has the disorder by as young as 18 months. However, by age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls, and its prevalence is not affected by race, region or socio-economic status. 

The treatment process for people living with autism is tricky because there is no cure for it. However, research has shown that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. These early intervention services typically begin when the child is a few months old and continues through age three, where they are learning important life skills. 

From helping the child talk, walk and interact with others, starting these services from a young age is important. This is why it’s vital to see your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think they could have autism or other developmental problems. 

Research has shown that autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however, there have been studies that show the mortality risk among individuals living with autism is twice as high as the general population due to drowning and other accidental deaths. Safety is important for everyone, and in order to live a long and full life, it’s important for parents and other family members to teach their loved ones how to stay as safe as possible. It can also be helpful to give a person with a disability a bracelet or other item that has their information on it in case he or she gets lost.

For many people, living with autism can make accomplishing daily normal tasks difficult. Something as routine as going to the dentist, could be a big deal to someone on the spectrum. Nonetheless, finding the right resources and planning for the future can help families improve their overall quality of life.

 

Living with Autism

From family issues to being more prone for injuries, living with autism can present more challenges along the way, and it’s essential to find the right tools that can help make life a little better for everyone involved. In some cases, even grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members can become involved to help. 

When you are living with someone diagnosed with autism, it can be extra stressful to meet at the complex needs of that person. Emotionally, financially and even some cases physically, it can impact the way a household runs on a daily basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that respite care can give parents and other family caregivers a needed break and help maintain family well-being. 

In order to stay healthy, people living with disabilities need the same basic health care as everyone else. Eating well and drinking plenty of water, exercising on a daily basis, getting enough rest, as well as having complete access to health care is essential to living a healthy life. 

While you might have a favorite doctor in mind, finding the right medical professionals that are comfortable with people on the spectrum are important. Sometimes people with disabilities may have a harder time interpreting a medical problem they have, and will need special assistance. 

People living with autism may have a hard time adjusting to change. And in life, we go through many changes – both unplanned and planned. However, there are difficult changes that you can plan ahead for, such as the transition from high school into adulthood. It’s good to start planning for those transitions at an early age so that they have the skills he or she needs to begin the next phase of life.

 Whether you know someone on the spectrum or maybe come into contact with children diagnosed with autism at work, it’s important to know as much information about their situation. This way, you can make the proper adjustments needed when they come to school, visit a doctor’s office, or even make a trip to the dentist.