“Loss of contact with the outside world by withdrawing into oneself, a way of thinking detached from reality and a predominance of the inner life” – The Medical Dictionary, Ceres Publishing House, 1977
Autism is considered a developmental disorder, and in October 2009, a report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services placed the diagnosis rate at 1 out of 68 children in the United States of America. According to the CDC, a United States institution in charge of Disease Control and Prevention (English U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – (CDC), the prevalence has increased more than twice between 2002 and 2008 and more than 10 times over the last 20 years.
Autism is a common diagnosis that babies, children and adults share, and who are likely to behave and look differently but who are facing challenges in the same areas: communication, social interactions and play or imaginative thinking.
The diagnosis of autism is determined by observing the behavioral characteristics in these areas. Since there are no physical characteristics that autistic people have in common and because there is a wide range of abilities and disabilities – it is not always easy to identify.
The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders is based on criteria established in „Manualul de Diagnostic şi Statistică a Tulburărilor Mentale” (English: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM), published by Asociaţia Americană de Psihiatrie (American Psychiatric Association). The manual is used in the United States of America, as well as by clinicians, researchers, regulatory agencies for psychiatric medicines, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and political decision-makers.
Autism is considered to be an autism spectrum disorder due to the variations that exist from the classic, non-verbal and non-functional autistic child to the child suffering from Asperger’s syndrome that has strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability and including each variation thereof. Many parents also describe medical conditions (e.g., gastrointestinal and immune disorders) and/or sensory processing disorders.
Although two people may have the same grade of autism, they may be as different as day and night. When parents of children or teenagers with autism meet for the first time, the inevitable question is “How is your child?” because they are all so different. For example, Jeremy, a twenty-two-year-old young man who has classic autism encounters difficulties with regard to many self-help skills, has a poor verbal discourse, does his homework and communicates with the help of an alphabet tablet, an iPad or other assistive devices and technologies. Tom, a young man who has Asperger’s Syndrome, can read and write in four languages. For him, his favorite way of spending time is to study the world’s religions, but it is difficult to carry any conversation that is not related to his field of interest.
Among them there are many different variations. A common expression in the autism community is that “When you met a person with autism, you met a person with autism.”
You may notice someone swinging on the spot while waiting for their turn in a store or in a bus stop, or a child who, in a shop, has what an unspecialized person might consider an unreasonable rage episode. You may know a silent teenager, considered to be a nerd, or perhaps you have a neighbor who sometimes snaps his fingers in front of his face while walking. All of these may be different manifestations of an autism spectrum disorder.
According to the fifth edition of DSM (manual presenting statistics and ways to diagnose mental disorders), the main features of autism are:
Ø “Deficits in social cognition and communication” that manifest as difficulties in reciprocal relationships such as shared attention, visual contact, empathy or understanding of others’ thoughts and intentions.
Ø “Decreased interest and repetitive behaviors” that imply inflexible adherence to meaningless routines.
People known in the community of people diagnosed with autism: :
Ø Temple Grandin is a successful autistic author. Dr.Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950, at the age of three. In 2015, she is a professor at Colorado University, has become one of the top scientists, has a Doctorate in Animal Science and is a convinced activist of the rights of autistic people. She is well-known, including by PETA, for her inventions in the field of animal slaughter-house practices. Through revolutionary studies and research, and analyzing things through her own autism, Temple Grandin brings a stunning perspective between the two worlds. In February 2011, her remarkable biography gave rise to the Temple Grandin movie. Autism was not an obstacle in making sense of her life, moreover it helped her.
Ø Thomas McKean is a celebrity among the autistic community for his devotion to people and families affected by general developmental disorders. Thomas was diagnosed with autism in 1979, when he was 14 years old. Following this diagnosis, he was institutionalized in a psychiatric clinic for two years. The experiences he passed through motivated him to become an active advocate of people with developmental disabilities.
Ø Donna Williams is an artist who says she is “a kinesthetic thinker” and provides a vision of mental processing and how it can differ from one individual to another. She is the author of “Nobody Nowhere” bestseller.
Ø Stephen Shore did not speak until the age of four, and doctors suggested his parents to put him in an institution. Helped by his parents and with the support of professionals, Stephen succeeded in defeating his disability, being the author of the book “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome”.
Ø Daniel Tammet is an autistic scientist, writer and educator, famous for his unique ability to describe how his mind works.
Ø Gary Numan, musician
Ø Scott James, musician
Ø Peter Tork, musician and actor
Ø Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon drawings
Ø Matt Savage, musician
Famous parents who have children diagnosed with autism:
Ø Jenny McCarthy – has an 8-year-old son, and in order to support awareness, she has participated in events, charity events, has written books, and talked about this disease in her shows.
Ø Gary Cole – has a 17-year-old daughter
Ø Toni Braxton – has an 8-year-old son
Ø Aidan Quinn – has a daughter
Ø Joe Mantegna – has a son
Ø John Travolta – had a son who died in 2009
Ø Sylvester Stallone – has a 32-year-old son
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological condition named after the Viennese physicist, Hans Asperger. In 1944, he published a work describing a pattern of behavior among several young boys who had normal linguistic intelligence and development, but who had similar autism behaviors and significant social and communication abilities. Despite the publication of this work in the 1940s, it was only in 1994 that Asperger’s syndrome was added to DSM IV Diagnostic Criteria and only in recent years, he has been recognized by professionals and parents.
People with Asperger syndrome may have a variety of characteristics, and this deficiency may vary between mild and severe. People with Asperger’s syndrome have major deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties in transition or change, and prefer similarity. Very often, they have obsessive habits and can be concerned about a particular subject of interest. They have great difficulty in reading non-verbal indices (body language) and often have difficulty in correctly determining body space. Often, overwhelmed with sounds, tastes, smells and visions, people with Asperger syndrome may prefer soft clothing, certain foods and may be disturbed by sounds and lights that no one else seems to hear or see. It is important to remember that the person with Asperger syndrome perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem strange or unusual are caused by those neurological differences and are not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and certainly not the result of “inadequate education.”
By definition, people with Asperger’s syndrome have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all of them) have exceptional skills or talent in a certain area. Due to their high degree of functionality and naivety, they are often seen as eccentric or strange and can easily be victims of mockery. While linguistic development appears to be normal on the surface, people with Asperger syndrome often have deficiencies in pragmatics and prosody. Their vocabulary can be extraordinarily rich; some children seem to be “little professors”. In any case, people with Asperger syndrome may be extremely literate and have difficulty using the language in a social context.
At this point there are many debates on where exactly Asperger syndrome falls. It is currently described as a deficiency in autism spectrum, and Uta Frith, in her book “AUTISM AND ASPERGER SYNDROME,” described people with Asperger’s syndrome as “being a little autistic.” Some professionals believe that Asperger’s syndrome is identical to high-functioning autism, while others believe it is better described as a non-verbal learning disability.
Asperger’s Syndrome shares many features with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, HFA and NLD and since it was unknown until a few years ago, many individuals either received an incorrect diagnosis or remained undiagnosed. For example, it is not uncommon for a child who was originally diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. In addition, some individuals who were initially diagnosed with HFA or PDD-NOS may receive the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and many individuals have a double diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism.
Diagnostic criteria for Asperger disorder, according to DSM IV:
- Qualitative impairment in social interaction, manifested by at least two of the following:
1. Significant deterioration in the use of multiple non-verbal behaviors such as direct eye contact, facial expression, bodily postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction;
2. Failure to develop friendly relations of friendship with the level of development;;
3. Lack of spontaneous desire to share their joy, interests or achievements with other people (e.g. by not showing, bringing or pointing objects of interest to other people);
4. Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
- B. 1. Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interest and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus;
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific non-functional routines or rituals;
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g.: hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements.
4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
- 1. Disturbance causes significant clinical deterioration in social, occupational areas, etc. operating
- 1. There is no significant clinical delay in terms of language (e.g. single words used up to the age of two, communicative phrases used up to the age of three).
- 1. There is no significant clinical delay in terms of cognitive development or the development of age-related self-help abilities, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction) and curiosity about the environment during childhood.
- 1. Criteria are not met for other specific developmental or schizophrenic disabilities
Asperger’s Syndrome, in Lois Freisleben-Cook’s view
Asperger Syndrome is a term used when a child or adult has some features of autism, but may not have the full clinical range. There are some disagreements about where it fits into the PDD spectrum. Some people with Asperger syndrome have been very successful and until recently, they have only been diagnosed as eccentric, absent, socially unadapted, and a bit physically weird.
Although criteria do not state that there is a significant delay in language development, what you can see is a “different” way of using the language. A child can have a great vocabulary and even demonstrate hyperlexic features, but he does not really understand the nuances of the language and have difficulty with linguistic pragmatics. Social pragmatics also tends to be weak, which makes the person appear to be working on another system. Dyspraxia may be reflected in a tendency to be clumsy.
In social interaction, many people with Asperger syndrome demonstrate avoiding fixed eyesight and may even turn to the other side when they greet someone. The children I have met want to interact with others, but they have difficulty knowing how to do it. They are, in any case, more capable to learn social skills than I am or you are capable to learn how to play the piano.
There is a general impression that Asperger’s syndrome brings with it a superior intelligence and a tendency to become very interested and concerned about a particular subject. Often this concern leads to a specific career, where the adult is very successful. At younger ages, a child may be more rigid and more reluctant when it comes to changes or adopting routines. This may lead to the idea that it is OCD, but it is not the same phenomenon.
Many weaknesses can be remedied with specific types of therapy, aimed at learning social and pragmatic skills. Anxiety that leads to significant rigidity can also be medically treated. Although it is more difficult, adults with Asperger syndrome may have relationships, families, happy and productive lives.
Attention Deficit Hyperkinetic Disorder – ADHD
Watching the children in a group of preschoolers, our attention is drawn to a certain child. Why is that so? Because, unlike his classmates, (s)he fails to complete a given task, stands up frequently from his/her chair or is permanently on the move, speaks without being asked, or disturbs people around in all possible ways.
This behavior occurs not only in the school environment, but also at home with his/her family, at the playgrounds or other social contexts. These manifestations may also occur to other children about the same age, but what distinguishes children with hyperactivity from those with normal development is the frequency and intensity of problems (he finds it difficult to focus; he is easily distracted, agitated, etc.).
Children with ADHD draw attention through their manifestations and their deficiencies in three important areas for their harmonious development:
- • Difficulties of attention and concentration
- Impulsive behaviors
- Hyperactivity (obvious restlessness).
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic disorder characterized by a high level of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It determines serious dysfunctions in several areas of operation, affecting children, family, school, and group of friends
According to DSM IV the symptoms of ADHD are: :
- The child’s inability to maintain his/her attention.(S)he is easily disturbed by the surrounding stimuli;
- Hyperactivity, leading to inappropriate behavior;
- Impulsivity (affecting inhibition brain areas) that causes the child to engage in various, even very risky activities, without being able to assess the severity of the risks.
Difficulties of attention and concentration
Children or adolescents find it very difficult to complete their activities, their ability to concentrate is low, and attention is easily distracted. Problems arise especially when these activities are imposed by others. In preschoolers and young school children these problems also arise in the activities they choose (in the game).Even if, at first, the child shows interest in a task, it disappears shortly, and the child shows interest for another activity.
Children or adolescents with ADHD are prone to acting suddenly, without thinking about the consequences of their behavior. If they start doing their homework, they solve without reading the requirements carefully, giving up easily on their attempt, provide answers before the interlocutor ends the question and frequently interrupts the others.
It is characterized by a motor unrest. The child, especially the preschooler or the young school-age child, can sit quietly on a chair for a short period of time.(S)he always stands up, drops things, moves things on the table, or turns them upside down. In the adolescent, this type of manifestation is less prominent, but there is also a tendency for him/her to move (swings his/her foot under the table, plays with the pencil or the pen, returns to his/her bench, etc.)
Who establishes the diagnosis?
If parents identify certain problems with the child, both through personal observation and the feed-back from teachers, it is important that they first turn to the family doctor. Diagnosis of hyperactivity can only be determined by a specialist. Specialists may be psychiatrists or psychologists working in the clinical field. As anxiety has been seen, impulsivity and limited concentration capacity are characteristic for young children, which is why when answering the questions in the specialist’s assessment sheet, account must be taken of the child’s age. Such manifestations may also occur in children with psychiatric disorders, learning difficulties and those with mental deficiencies, but in the latter case, the manifestations are caused by the low level of intelligence and not by the hyperactivity disorder.
What can be done?
The most important aspects are choosing the ways to help the child/adolescent with ADHD and the measures that are required, depending on the problems that arise: for the child or adolescent, the family, at kindergarten or at school. These principles are important because most support measures have a specific functionality. For example, there should be no expectations of diminishing inappropriate behavioral manifestations at school if a movement therapy is applied. Equally less is expected that measures taken at home have a spectacular effect at school or at kindergarten. The measures taken must be combined, coherent; there should be cooperation within the family, school and specialists involved.
(information from: “ADHD – Questions and Answers”, Manfred Dopfner, Gerd Lehmkuhl, Medice – Iserholn)
Some children are more active than others, and each child can be very agitated at some point and may have difficulty concentrating on a task (s)he has to accomplish, being easily distracted by what is happening around him/her. We all know that it is more difficult for the young to concentrate or stay in one place for a longer period of time. The more a child gets older, the better he can focus. What differentiates children with hyperactivity from those with normal development is the frequency and intensity with which problems occur (he finds it difficult to concentrate; he is easily distracted, agitated, etc.)
Unlike children of the same age, those with hyperactivity exhibit more intense manifestations in at least three important areas, drawing attention through:
- Difficulties of attention and concentration
- Impulsive behaviors
- Hyperactivity (obvious restlessness)
- Difficulties of attention and concentration
Problems of hyperactivity occur more frequently in activities imposed by others, such as: homework or classroom tasks. In preschoolers and young school-aged children these problems also arise in the activities they choose (in the game).Even if, at first, the child shows interest in a task, it disappears shortly, and the child shows interest for another activity.
Unlike children of the same age, children with hyperactivity, act before thinking; follow their first impulses and ideas without taking into account the consequences. They cannot postpone the fulfillment of their desires until they can be done without problems, when they want something that must happen immediately. Thus, they behave immaturely for their age, answer before the question is completely formulated, and they frequently interrupt the others.
Especially in kindergarten and primary school classes, these children are characterized by constant restlessness. These manifestations occur especially in situations where they are asked to sit still. During the lessons they often leave their place, find it difficult to play with others, they run or climb all the time. Being warned by teachers or parents, they calm down for a few seconds, and then return to their previous manifestations.
All these manifestations can be seen in different situations – not only in the family, but also at kindergarten, at school, or leisure activities with children of similar age. They are usually more pronounced in situations where children and young people should focus and be patient, for example when preparing their lessons or eating
Parents of hyperactive children aged between six and ten were asked which familiar situations are perceived as difficult, the question was also addressed to a control group made up of parents of randomly selected children of the same age. The results indicated that more than 50% of parents with hyperactive children selected doing homework as very difficult, while less than 10% of parents in the control group considered this to be problematic. On the second and third place of problematic situations parents of hyperactive children placed the moments when the mother speaks on the phone and the situations when they have guests.
There is a great variation in the severity of these issues. Some children’s behavioral manifestations are so pronounced that they can be noticed very quickly. These children can hardly be accepted at kindergarten and at school, and for their family, they become a burden. For most children, problems are less pronounced; they do not appear with the same intensity in all situations and may not be observed. Shifting from normal behavior to problematic behavior is continuous.
Important Aspects in the Diagnosis of Hyperactivity Disorder
- They often do not see the details, and while doing homework or other activities they make mistakes because of inattention;
- They often have difficulties when they need to maintain their attention focused on themes or when playing, for a longer period of time;
- Most of the time when others talk to him/her, (s)he does not listen;
- Often, they do not fully follow the requirements given by others and cannot complete homework or other activities, tasks;
- (S)he often has difficulties in organizing homework and other activities;
- (S)he often avoids or rejects activities or homework that require mental effort;
- S)he often loses objects that are necessary for doing homework or activities (toys, pencils, papers);
- (S)he is easily distracted by external stimuli;
- (S) he is absent-minded when it comes to daily activities.
- • he often moves his/her hands and feet or can’t sit still on the chair;
- • he often stands up in class or in other situations where (s)he should sit on the chair;
- • Runs or climbs in situations where this behavior is inappropriate;
- • Has difficulty when playing or doing different activities quietly;
- • Often he is restless and has an exaggerated motor activity that cannot be influenced by social rules or parental observations.
- • (S)he often answers without waiting for the question to be fully formulated;
- • Has difficulty in waiting his/her turn in the game or other group activities;
- • (S)he interrupts and bothers others frequently (for example, mingles in conversations or in others’ games);
- • He often speaks very much, without worrying about social constraints.
For the diagnosis of hyperactivity disorder, there must be more features in the list presented, and these are more obvious in relation to children of the same age and with the same level of development. In addition, these manifestations must occur in several areas of activity. In specialist circles, consensus has not been reached on establishing the diagnosis, some specialists considering that there should be manifestations in all three important areas (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity), while others claim that there are different forms of hyperactivity disorder, such as:
- hyperactivity disorder with manifestations in all three areas;
- hyperactivity disorder, characterized in particular by difficulties in focusing attention and less by motor impulsivity and restlessness;
- t• hyperactivity disorder characterized by impulsivity and motor restlessness and less by concentration difficulties.
Depending on the disorder intensity, other notions may also be used to describe the problem: the most used notions are hyperactivity and attention deficit syndrome. If the child is restless, impulsive, and has trouble concentrating does not necessarily mean that he or she suffers from a hyperactive disorder, as these manifestations may also occur in other disorders.
(Fragments from the book “ The Hyperactive and Stubborn Child” – Manfred Dopfner, Stephanie Schurmann, Gerd Lehmkuhl, ASCR Publishing House, Romanian edition 2004 RTS ROMANIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING SERVICES)
10 Things You Need to Know About Autism
Sometimes, it seems that the only predictable thing about autism is its unpredictability. The only clear feature – relativity. The child with autism “looks normal,” but his/her behavior can be difficult and hard to accept.
Autism was considered an “incurable” disability at some point, but this term disappears as the general level of knowledge and understanding grows. Every day, people with autism show us that they can overcome, compensate and manage the most prominent features of autism. Teaching people around who are the main elements of autism will have a major impact on the ability of the person with autism to develop an independent and productive lifestyle.
Autism is a complex disability, but from its characteristics we can extract four fundamental features:
- • Difficulties of sensory adaptation
- Speech delays
- Underdeveloped social skills
- Trust issues and self esteem
Even though these elements are common to those suffering from autism, there will never be two people with the same manifestations. Each child is at a different point in the spectrum of autism. Equally important, each parent, teacher or social worker will be at a different point in the spectrum. Child or adult, each one has a unique set of needs.
IHere are 10 things every child with autism wishes you knew:
1. I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily “autistic”. My autism is only one aspect of my total character. It does not define me as a person.
Are you a person with feelings, thoughts, and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight), myopic (wear glasses) or clumsy? Those may be things that I see first when I meet you, but they are not necessarily what you are all about. As an adult, you have some control over how you define yourself. If you want to single out a single characteristic, you can make that known without too much effort. As a child, I am still unfolding. Neither you nor I yet know what I may be capable of. Defining me by one characteristic I have, you might underestimate me. And if I get a sense that you don’t think I “can do it,” my natural response will be: Why try?
2. My sensory perceptions are disordered.
Sensory integration may be the most difficult aspect of autism to understand, but it is arguably the most critical. This means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me. The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile. I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you but I am really just trying to defend, to protect myself. Here is why a “simple” trip to the grocery store may be hell for me:
My hearing may be hyper-acute. Lots of people are talking at once. The loudspeaker booms today’s special. Cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain cannot filter all the input and I am in “overload”.
My sense of smell may be highly sensitive. The fish at the meat counter is not quite fresh. The guy standing next to us hasn’t showered today. The baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper. They’re mopping up pickles on aisle three with ammonia….I can’t sort it all out. I am dangerously nauseated.
Because I am visually oriented, this may be my first sense to become overstimulated. The fluorescent light is not only too bright, it buzzes and hums. The light seems to pulsate and it hurts my eyes. The pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing – the space seems to be constantly changing. There is glare from windows, moving fans on the ceiling, and so many people in constant motion. All this affects my vestibular and proprioceptive senses. And now I can’t even tell where my body is in space.
3. Please remember to distinguish between WON’T (I choose not to) and CAN’T (I am not able to).
Receptive and expressive language and vocabulary can be major challenges for me. It isn’t that I don’t listen to instructions. It’s that I can’t understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is what I hear:„&#$@*^ Marius.%**%$#@…” Instead, come speak directly to me in plain words: “Please put your book in the bookcase, Marius. It’s time to go to lunch.” This tells me what you want me to do and what is going to happen next. Now it is much easier for me to comply.
4. I am a concrete thinker.
This means I interpret language very literally. It’s very confusing for me when you say, “Hold your horses, cowboy!” when what you really mean is “Please stop running.” Don’t tell me something is a “piece of cake” when there is no dessert in sight and what you really mean is “this will be easy for you to do.” When you say “Break a leg, Răzvan”, I see the anatomical part and I will get very confused about it. In fact, you can say “Good luck Răzvan”.Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres, inference, metaphors, allusions and sarcasm are lost on me.
5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary.
It’s hard for me to tell you what I need when I don’t know the words to describe my feelings. I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened or confused but right now those words are beyond my ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, restlessness or other signs that something is wrong. Or, there’s a flip side to this: I may sound like a “little professor” or movie star. I may be rattling off words or whole scripts well beyond my developmental age. These are messages I have memorized from the world around me to compensate for my language deficits. This is because I know I am expected to respond when spoken to. They may come from books, TV, from different speeches. This type of manifestation is called “echolalia” (I repeat exactly what I hear, like a parrot does). I don’t necessarily understand the context or the terminology I’m using. I just know that it gets me off the hook for coming up with a reply.
6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented.
Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me. And please be prepared to show me many times. Repetition helps me learn. A visual schedule is extremely helpful as I move through my day. Like your day-timer or mobile phone, it relieves me of the stress of having to remember what comes next, makes for smooth transition between activities, helps me manage my time and meet your expectations. I won’t lose the need for a visual schedule as I get older, but my “level of representation” may change. Before I can read, I need a visual schedule with photographs or simple drawings. As I get older, a combination of words and pictures may work, and later still, just words.
7. Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.
Like any other person, I cannot learn in an environment where I’m constantly made to feel that I’m not good enough and that I need “fixing.” Trying anything new when I am almost sure to be met with criticism, however “constructive,” becomes something to be avoided. Look for my strengths and you will find them. There is more than one “right” way to do most things.
8. Please help me with social interactions.
It may look like I don’t want to play with the other kids. It is just that I simply do not know how to start a conversation or enter a play situation. If you could encourage other children to invite me to join them at football or shooting baskets, you might find that I am delighted to be included. I do best in structured play activities that have a clear beginning and end. I don’t know how to “read” facial expressions, body language or the emotions of others around me. That is why I appreciate constant help about what I have to do in terms of interacting with other children. For example, if I laugh when Emily falls off the slide, it’s not that I think it’s funny. It’s that I don’t know the proper response.Teach me to say “Are you OK, Emily? Did you get hurt?”
9.Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns.
My meltdowns are even more horrid for me than they are for you. These states occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented. Keep a log noting times, settings, people, activities around me. A pattern may emerge. Try to remember that all behavior is a form of communication. It tells you, when my words cannot, how I perceive something that is happening in my environment.
Parents, keep in mind as well: persistent behavior may have an underlying medical cause. Food allergies and sensitivities, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems can all have profound effects on behavior.
10. Please love me unconditionally.
Banish thoughts like, “If (s)he would just……” or “Why can’t (s)he…..”.You did not fulfill every last expectation your parents had for you and you wouldn’t like being constantly reminded of it. I did not choose to have autism. But remember that it is happening to me, not you. Without your support; my chances of successful, self-reliant adulthood are slim. With your support and guidance, the possibilities are broader than you might think. I promise you – I am worth it.
as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I’m not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don’t lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people?It is also true that I probably won’t be the next Hagi or Ilie Năstase. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or George Orwell. Or Thomas Jefferson. They had autism too.
All that I might become won’t happen without you as my foundation. Be my advocate, be my friend, and we’ll see just how far I can go. .
Sursa: ELLEN NOTBOHM – TEN THINGS EVERY CHILD WITH AUTISM WISHES YOU
Children with opposing behavioral behaviors have difficulties in following important rules, compared to those of the same age but without problems. They often come to have conflicts with their parents or other significant adult persons, as well as with their siblings or other children outside the family. They get angry very quickly, constantly annoying others and blaming them for their inappropriate mistakes or behaviors. Opposing and belligerent manifestations are up to a certain point part of a normal development, with some phases in which these manifestations are more prominent. For example, many 3-year-olds have intense temper tantrums that become rarer when they are four-five years old. Parent/child conflicts increase during puberty. Thus, we can say that up to a certain point and opposing behaviors are normal. A child who is never belligerent should worry you more than a child who has temper tantrums from time to time and breaks the rules.
However, there are children where these issues are more intense than those of similar age and who, due to these manifestations, come into conflict with family members, colleagues, kindergarten or school teachers. Typically, these issues arise especially in relationships with trusted people, whether adults or children of the same age. As a rule, children do not perceive themselves as stubborn or hostile and tend to justify their behavior as a normal response to irrational demands or to accidental or inappropriate circumstances.
Overall, under the concept of opposing behavioral manifestations, different forms of belligerent and refusal behavior can be included:
– non-compliance with rules and requirements;
– temper tantrums and belligerent behaviors towards parents and adults (most often when certain limits are imposed);
– dominant and belligerent behaviors towards siblings;
– dominant and belligerent behavior towards peers, outside the family.
Opposing and belligerent behaviors manifest themselves in one context or may be manifested in several. Sometimes the manifestations can be limited to one person in the family. However, in most cases, these children adopt an opposing behavior towards several family members, and outside this environment they can be friendly and adaptable. It can happen that the parents are already exasperated by the child’s behavior in the family, while the nursery school teacher can describe them as friendly, affectionate and ready to help. The extent of behavioral problems spreading across multiple areas and situations is an indicator of the severity of this disorder: the more problems occur in more contexts, the more severe the manifestations. For some children, the manifestations are so intense that they are unbearable to the family, at kindergarten or at school. Behavioral manifestations do not occur in all situations the same way and the transition to normal behavior is gradual.
If behavioral manifestations of oppositional type are very intense, then we are discussing about an oppositional defiant disorder. How does a specialist establish the diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder? Diagnosis of an oppositional type disorder can only be done by a specialist, based on certain features that will be presented below. Diagnosis can only be determined when more than one feature is present; they should be more intense than in children who do not have these problems. In addition, they must manifest themselves for at least six months.
How do we identify oppositional manifestations?
1. Characteristics of oppositional defiant disorder (social behavior disorder through hostile, oppositional manifestations)
2. Has unusual and strong temper tantrums or gets annoyed very easily, as compared to his/her peers;
3. Often quarrels with adults;
4. Frequently and actively opposes the rules or adults’ requirements or refuses to comply with them;
5. (S)he exasperates others intentionally;
6. Blames others for their own mistakes;
7. Is often annoyed or is easily challenged by others;
8. Is often noisy and easily annoyed;
9. Is often mischievous and eager for revenge.
How frequent are oppositional manifestations?
Oppositional behavioral manifestations and behavioral disorders are common. A study conducted in Germany shows that parents describe behavioral manifestations in children aged 4-10 years in 3% of girls and 6% of boys. Data provided by parents indicates that lighter manifestations are found in many children. Identified manifestations presented in descending order of frequency: fight/contradiction, mild jealousy, temper tantrums, is disobedient at home, destroys his/her own things, is disobedient at school, screams a lot, and is irritated / pouted.
(Fragments from the book “ The Hyperactive and Stubborn Child” – Manfred Dopfner, Stephanie Schurmann, Gerd Lehmkuhl, ASCR Publishing House, Romanian edition 2004 RTS ROMANIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING SERVICES, www.rtscluj.ro).
When you are a teenager you discover your own identity and realize what your relationship with the world and the others is. When you encounter a person who does not fit the pattern considered “normal”, you may feel the temptation to avoid that person, to chat with friends about him/her or to judge him/her for no reason.
If a person does not appear to be like other classmates or does not meet the expectations of “normal” behavior, consider the possibility that they may have autism or other disabilities. There is an increasing number of people who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s Syndrome. More than ever, there are students with all kinds of disabilities at your school and classroom. With your support and acceptance, a student with autism can do well at school and fit in. Understanding, coaching and including them in social activities, autistic teens can become very good friends.
How are teenagers with ASD unique?
Many teens with ASD have dreams and goals similar to yours. For some people, there may be only subtle differences, while other people diagnosed with ASD may be very different from you. Some classmates may have difficulty with certain activities due to their disability, but they may have strengths in other areas. For example, a teenager with ASD may be a computer or science expert, but may experience difficulties in social situations or playing in a sports team. It is possible for some teenagers with ASD:
- to misunderstand the rules or become anxious when the rules are not followed precisely.
- to observe certain routines, such as always sitting in the same place in the cafeteria or going to their classroom always following the same path.
- to feel an intense desire to pursue a certain interest and to focus very carefully
- on a certain thing, such as a video game, mythology or sports information.
- have difficulties in facing daily challenges such as timetable changes.
- not to be able to look into your eyes or on the contrary they can fasten their eyes on you too intensely
- when they speak.
- to react with determination or become overwhelmed by situations such as canteens and loud sports halls, fire alarms, crowded hallways, or strong fluorescent lights.
- not admit or protect themselves from intimidation or teasing at school,
- in public or on the Internet.
- to think very concretely, literally and not understand sarcasm, jargon or jokes.
- to sit too close when talking and not be able to understand the “insinuation” that the discussion is over.
- to make comments that may seem rude, without understanding their social impact (for example, “your breath smells”).
- to give the impression that they do not care or that they are unaware of others’ feelings.
- to want to make friends, but talk only about their special interests. You have to realize that (s)he is trying to get close to you and that (s)he might be left speechless when it comes to discussing other topics.
- not be able to interpret facial expressions, such as the teacher’s meaningful
- look who shows that it’s time to be quiet.
Why do adolescents with autism behave like that?
Adolescents with ASD may be behaving in unusual ways; however, they do not usually choose to behave wrongly or strangely. They may have difficulty controlling their behavior because it is difficult for them to understand the others’ expectations or face the world around them. They may also not be aware of their behavior or the fact that it is perceived as unusual.
How do teenagers with ASD communicate?
Teenagers with ASD may have problems with responsive communication. This means that they may not always understand everything they are told, they may need to process what it is being said or can be confused when someone says too many things at once. In order to communicate more effectively with a person with ASD, make an effort:
- Speak slowly using simple words.
- Allow more time for the person with ASD to process and formulate a response.
- Use a direct and positive language that tells the person what to do (“stay put” instead of “do not “).
- Try not to use sarcasm, jargon or implicit meanings (such as “go over”, “let’s waste our time together, “shut up” or “take a soothing pill”).
Adolescents with ASD may encounter difficulties in expressive communication, which means they are not able to “express” what they think or feel. Some of them may not speak at all, but they can communicate by gestures and other behaviors. Others can use a writing pad or a small computer that speaks for them. Expressive communication refers to the way a person “speaks” to others and sends them a message or a thought. Although they can understand what they say, they have difficulty in figuring out how to respond. Do not ever assume that just because a person does not speak, (s)he does not understand or is not intelligent. A teenager with ASD:
- may not be able to speak and may use another form of communication, such as
- sign language or an electronic device.
- can use a formal and very precise language that makes them seem different from your other friends.
- can repeat a phrase (s)he heard in a movie, a video material or a previous conversation, sometimes without knowing what it means. This phrase may be irrelevant, or may contain a response that appears inappropriate.
- may show difficulty in sticking to a topic during a conversation.
- may have difficulty in starting a conversation.
- can say something that sounds rude. Probably they do not intend to look like this, but teenagers with ASD can be brutally honest.
- can be brutally honest.
- They might forget to use greeting formulas such as “hello” or “goodbye”.
- may have difficulty in understanding when to start and when to end a conversation and when it is their turn
- to speak.
How can I be a good friend?
When you are friends with a person with ASD, you can learn a lot from each other. Here are some ideas that can help you become a better friend:
Accept the differences that make your friend different.
Protect him/her from the things that disturb him/her (for example, strong noises or fluorescent lights).
Join your friend in activities that interest him/her.
Speak in a way according to his/her age. Do not use a language for children.
Be patient and understand that your friend does not want to bother you or others.
Protect him/her when other people try to intimidate or cause him/her to do something inappropriate. Give him/her more time to answer questions or finish an activity.
Invite him/her to join group activities; go to a movie, spend time with other friends or participate in sports or school events.
Help other teenagers learn about autism and accept it.
Some people may experience extreme and problematic behaviors: shout, hurt themselves or others, and destroy objects. You must realize that these behaviors may be the only way to make their pain, confusion or desire to be known. When such behaviors occur, you should call an adult for help.
You can provide support by helping others understand what caused this behavior and by hoping that this way, the situation will be avoided in the future.
Finally, you must realize that your friend with ASD may have information or skills from which you have something to learn. Some of these people may be exceptionally talented in mathematics, music, art, or other fields. If you invest time in being a friend to a person with ASD, you may find that you have a lot to learn and that it is a pleasure to spend time together. These are wonderful people who deserve to be known. Remember, a student with ASD is, in fact, just a teenager who wants to be respected as an individual, have friends and have fun.
For more information about ASD, go to the bookshop and look for these books, as well as others, written by or for teenagers:
Bristow, C. (2008). My strange and terrible malady.
Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger Publishing
Burrows, E.L., & Wagner, S.J. (2004). Understanding Asperger’s syndrome: Fast facts—a guide for teachers and educators to address the needs of the student. Arlington, Texas.: Future Horizons.
Haddon, M. (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. New York: Vintage
Jackson, L. (2002). Freaks, geeks and Asperger syndrome: A user guide to adolescence. London & New York: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Keating-Velasco, J.L. (2007). A is for autism, F is for friend: A kid’s book on making friends with a child who has autism. Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
Keating-Velasco, J.L. (2008). In his shoes: A short journey through autism. Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
Ledgin, N. (2002). Asperger’s and self-esteem: Insight and hope through famous role models. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons.
Shore, S.M., Rastelli, L.G., & Grandin, T. (2006). Understanding autism for dummies. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
I have recently had the opportunity to “meet” through the wonders of the Internet a prominent author and speaker on autism.
“Autism is not a disease or an entity. It is not something that we must seek out to eradicate. Rather, it is a mode of being, the word “autism” simply being an umbrella term to describe how one relates (or does not relate) to the world. When autism is viewed as an entity, a “thing,” professionals are then led to develop programs that seek to transform the person into something they are not, nor will — or can — ever be. This errant perspective may prove dangerous, as it can function as the impetus to alter the affected person by force, coercion, or manipulation. If an American travels to a foreign country having learned something of the language and culture beforehand, then relating to others and navigating one’s way become much easier. This illustrates the direction in which I believe that programs to aid autistic persons should be geared — not to change the individual, but rather to help them to be themselves, while also having an understanding of the “mainstream,” and being able to navigate within that realm. In my approach, there are some core principles that I find of utmost importance:
Presume intellect: : Because a person is nonverbal or struggles with communication does not mean they are not intelligent nor have nothing to say. Their unique strengths and passions must be explored and utilized.
Behavior is communication: : In my opinion, the psychiatric community may be making a huge mistake when it simply seeks to “shut down” or suppress what it judges to be “unwanted” behaviors with powerful psychiatric drugs. Behaviors, even those which may be deemed “unwanted,” could be, for some, the only means to convey their needs or distress.
Self-Advocacy: : If professionals, friends, family members of the individual, and people at large wish to understand autism, there must be a willingness to enter the autistics’ world, not force them to enter the “public world” deemed acceptable. We must validate self-advocacy and seek knowledge about the autistic mode of being from those who actually live it each day.
Relationship: : To help autistic persons forge emotional connections, make their way through the mainstream, and learn new skills, the keys are relationships. We all must be inclined to forge a bond with the person, to truly seek to understand his/her experience, unique world, and how (s)he finds meaning — that is, to get to know the autistic individual as a fellow human being. Once a bond is forged, a common healing ground can be created.
Respect: It is paramount for respect to exist and abound, which means that we do nothing to force, coerce, or manipulate those with autism. They should be regarded at all times as being worthy of dignity. Again, the “outsider’s” role is to advocate for and support, not seek to modify the person into someone they are not, or need not be. I clearly remember a meeting with a five-year-old boy with autism who was nonverbal. He came into my office and began banging his hands on the computer keyboard. The secretary’s response, as is often typical in those with a lesser understanding of autism, was to immediately attempt to stop the behavior. Instead, I told her to let him continue. There is a ball pit in the center of the room, and I told the boy that if he wanted to keep hitting the keyboard, I might have to pick him up and toss him into the ball pit. He continued, so I picked him up and tossed him in. He got out and immediately walked back over to the keyboard. This time, he did not pound the keyboard but outstretched his hands toward it and then fell back into my arms for me to toss him into the ball pit. He giggled and then uttered, “Do it again!” I was amazed. Relationship was at the key of this interaction, and an emotional connection was forged. I entered into his world, and he reciprocated and entered mine.”
Dr. Dan L. Edmunds
These are the words people need to hear about autism, and I will certainly become a faithful reader of Dr. Edmunds’ work!
Translated from English by Robert Plopeanu, a young man with autism, of “Step into my world” material.