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Working With Children And Young People With Autism

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Working with Children & Young People with Autism

The Austrian psychologist Dr Leo Kanner first used the term autism in 1943, but it wasn't until 1996 that the phrase Autistic Spectrum Disorder was coined by Dr Lorna Wing to identify a whole range of disorders affecting the development of social interaction, communication and social imagination, know as the Triad of Impairments. The spectrum includes classic autism, asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive development disorder (PDD). These are separate and different disorders but are all classed as being on the autistic spectrum due to the commonality of this Triad of Impairments.

Those on the autistic spectrum may be diagnosed due to displaying some, but not all, symptoms in each of the three aspects of the triad. Examples of these symptoms are as follows:

Social understanding and interaction:

* Impairment in the use of non-verbal behaviour such as facial expression, body postures and gestures and appropriate eye to eye contact

* Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

* Difficulty in sharing enjoyment and interests with other people

* Lack of social or emotional empathy

* May appear aloof

* Eating and sleeping problems

Language and communication:

* Delay or lack of development in spoken language

* Impairment in initiating or sustaining a conversation with others

* Difficulty understanding non-literal communication, e.g. jokes, sarcasm

* Echolalia and/or repetitive speech

* Hand flapping

Social imagination:

* Difficulty with make-believe or social play

* Poor insight into what others are thinking

* Limited creativity

* Need for routine and difficulty with change

* Difficulty with sequencing

* Literal thought

* Difficulty separating fact from fiction

* Ritualistic behaviour

The triad of impairment manifests itself differently in each disorder on the autistic spectrum, and the severity of the disorder can vary greatly within each area.

Classic autism would show many of the symptoms in these three aspects of the triad. They usually appear aloof or indifferent to people and rarely make spontaneous approaches to others. There may be speech and learning difficulties with a poor attention span and those at the higher end of the spectrum who are able to talk tend to talk at, rather than with people. Generally when communicating with others they may act in an odd, inappropriate or repetitive manner, paying little attention to the other's responses. Those with classic autism find it hard to talk about feelings or thoughts and do not understand these in other people. They have difficulty with the meaning of gesture, facial expression or tone of voice and are very literal in their use and understanding of language. Echolalia, hand flapping and repetitive speech are very traits in people with classic autism and

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