WHAT IS AUTISM

The word autism comes from a Greek word „autos“ which means „alone” and it is automatically linked to unsociability and introversion. Autism is a lifelong pervasive neuro-developmental disorder and is also known as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

It is a congenital difference in brain development and function that makes the individual think and behave differently than is usual for their peers. As a result of these differences the person processes incoming information in a different way than we do and can react strangely in common situations.

The symptoms are very diverse, there are no two people with ASD with identical profile. Nevertheless, the impairment impacts three main domains – communication, social interaction and imagination.

Despite the common belief connected to the picture of autism in media there is no model case of a person with autism. A highly intelligent person can be diagnosed with ASD as well as someone with mental retardation. While some people with autism can be unsociable, others enjoy company very much. Some need special education and constant assistance and others live completely independently and have their own families.

Statistics and estimations indicate that there are around 100 000 – 200 000 people with ASD in Czech Republic and some people suggest even higher numbers.

Currently the awareness of both general and expert public about autism is rising as well as the early and correct diagnostics. There are many different approaches to the therapy of autism and while some of them are evidence-based and help to develop people in many ways, others are purely experimental and potentially dangerous. Choosing the correct approach requires critical thinking and constant evaluation. There is no minimum age limit for an intervention and the earlier it starts the better the potential results can be due to the flexibility of our brain. We can observe an atypical behaviors and early warning signs and even though they don´t necessarily have to be symptoms of autism, it is not recommended to wait until the age of 3 for an official diagnosis. It is good to start working with a child and develop their social and communication skills immediately when we have a suspicion something might be wrong.

Currently there is no „cure“ for autism which does not mean there is nothing we can do to help individuals with autism develop to their full potential without causing them harm. There is no magic pill to make a difference and behind each progress there is a lot of effort.

Potential warning signs we can notice in early age:

  • does not respond to their name
  • delayed language development
  • does not follow instructions
  • started „forgetting“ words and losing skills
  • does not point to objects
  • does not wave bye bye
  • does not express their needs
  • appears to be deaf
  • does not laugh
  • prefers playing alone
  • poor eye contact
  • appears to live in their own world
  • no interest in other children
  • seems to be ignoring other children
  • tantrums
  • hyperactivity
  • inability to cooperate
  • negativism
  • does not seem to know how to play with toys
  • repetitive activities
  • tip toe walk
  • sorts or lines up toys/objects
  • strange movements
  • inappropriate reactions to certain sounds or materials
  • overly fixated to some objects

WHAT IS AUTISM

The word autism comes from a Greek word „autos“ which means „alone” and it is automatically linked to unsociability and introversion. Autism is a lifelong pervasive neuro-developmental disorder and is also known as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

It is a congenital difference in brain development and function that makes the individual think and behave differently than is usual for their peers. As a result of these differences the person processes incoming information in a different way than we do and can react strangely in common situations.

The symptoms are very diverse, there are no two people with ASD with identical profile. Nevertheless, the impairment impacts three main domains – communication, social interaction and imagination.

Despite the common belief connected to the picture of autism in media there is no model case of a person with autism. A highly intelligent person can be diagnosed with ASD as well as someone with mental retardation. While some people with autism can be unsociable, others enjoy company very much. Some need special education and constant assistance and others live completely independently and have their own families.

Statistics and estimations indicate that there are around 100 000 – 200 000 people with ASD in Czech Republic and some people suggest even higher numbers.

Currently the awareness of both general and expert public about autism is rising as well as the early and correct diagnostics. There are many different approaches to the therapy of autism and while some of them are evidence-based and help to develop people in many ways, others are purely experimental and potentially dangerous. Choosing the correct approach requires critical thinking and constant evaluation. There is no minimum age limit for an intervention and the earlier it starts the better the potential results can be due to the flexibility of our brain. We can observe an atypical behaviors and early warning signs and even though they don´t necessarily have to be symptoms of autism, it is not recommended to wait until the age of 3 for an official diagnosis. It is good to start working with a child and develop their social and communication skills immediately when we have a suspicion something might be wrong.

Currently there is no „cure“ for autism which does not mean there is nothing we can do to help individuals with autism develop to their full potential without causing them harm. There is no magic pill to make a difference and behind each progress there is a lot of effort.

Potential warning signs we can notice in early age:

  • does not respond to their name
  • delayed language development
  • does not follow instructions
  • started „forgetting“ words and losing skills
  • does not point to objects
  • does not wave bye bye
  • does not express their needs
  • appears to be deaf
  • does not laugh
  • prefers playing alone
  • poor eye contact
  • appears to live in their own world
  • no interest in other children
  • seems to be ignoring other children
  • tantrums
  • hyperactivity
  • inability to cooperate
  • negativism
  • does not seem to know how to play with toys
  • repetitive activities
  • tip toe walk
  • sorts or lines up toys/objects
  • strange movements
  • inappropriate reactions to certain sounds or materials
  • overly fixated to some objects

MYTHS ABOUT AUTISM

Myth: A person with autism is like Rain man

The general idea about autism is definitely influenced by the way it is presented in media. Many people imagine that a person with ASD is in some way a genius just like the Rain man. The truth is that autism is connected to a full spectrum of skills and intelligence and exceptional skills are typical only for a minority of people with autism.

Myth: A person with autism is retarded

An opposite view of an autistic person can be connected to an intellectual disability. We have already written that the ASD can be connected to the full spectrum of intelligence. The problem is that typical intelligence tests are based on some skills people with autism might not have (for example vocal communication) but that does not mean they have intellectual disability.

Myth: Autistic people have poor eye contact and don´t like physical contact

Every person with autism is unique in all aspects including social behavior. For some, eye contact is not an issue, for others it is a skill we need to teach and same goes for physical contact. Some of our children prefer to play alone and we need to work on tolerating physical contact. Others, on the other hand, are incredibly cuddly and sometimes we might even need to work on discriminating when it is not appropriate to hug people around them.

Myth: People with autism want to be alone in their own world

We all have our own hobbies and interests and so do people with ASD. The truth is that one of the possible symptoms of autism can be stereotypical activities and it is another area that can be developed. It can also be harder for people with autism to approach other people and initiate social interaction but that does not mean they want to be alone.

Myth: Autistic people cannot express and read emotions

We always say people should spend only couple of minutes in our center to see the full range of emotions our kids experience all the time! Be it a joy, sadness or anger, people with autism experience emotions as much as we do, even though sometimes they express it in different ways than we are used to. It can also be challenging for them to learn to read other peoples´ face expressions but that is just another skill we can work on.

Myth: Your child is autistic and will never talk

Many parents have heard this sentence but in ABA we believe that if child is not
progressing it is not their fault. It means we need to change our way of teaching. Each child has their own limits but the diagnosis of ASD does not automatically mean that a child will never learn to speak or communicate.

Myth: A person with autism hits their head against a wall

Some behaviors connected to ASD can be scary or dangerous but they are not an automatic part of the diagnosis. They are a form of communication the person with autism developed since they were not able to communicate their needs in any other functional way. It is our job to teach them a functional mean of communication and by that reduce the challenging behaviors.

MYTHS ABOUT AUTISM

Myth: A person with autism is like Rain man

The general idea about autism is definitely influenced by the way it is presented in media. Many people imagine that a person with ASD is in some way a genius just like the Rain man. The truth is that autism is connected to a full spectrum of skills and intelligence and exceptional skills are typical only for a minority of people with autism.

Myth: A person with autism is retarded

An opposite view of an autistic person can be connected to an intellectual disability. We have already written that the ASD can be connected to the full spectrum of intelligence. The problem is that typical intelligence tests are based on some skills people with autism might not have (for example vocal communication) but that does not mean they have intellectual disability.

Myth: Autistic people have poor eye contact and don´t like physical contact

Every person with autism is unique in all aspects including social behavior. For some, eye contact is not an issue, for others it is a skill we need to teach and same goes for physical contact. Some of our children prefer to play alone and we need to work on tolerating physical contact. Others, on the other hand, are incredibly cuddly and sometimes we might even need to work on discriminating when it is not appropriate to hug people around them.

Myth: People with autism want to be alone in their own world

We all have our own hobbies and interests and so do people with ASD. The truth is that one of the possible symptoms of autism can be stereotypical activities and it is another area that can be developed. It can also be harder for people with autism to approach other people and initiate social interaction but that does not mean they want to be alone.

Myth: Autistic people cannot express and read emotions

We always say people should spend only couple of minutes in our center to see the full range of emotions our kids experience all the time! Be it a joy, sadness or anger, people with autism experience emotions as much as we do, even though sometimes they express it in different ways than we are used to. It can also be challenging for them to learn to read other peoples´ face expressions but that is just another skill we can work on.

Myth: Your child is autistic and will never talk

Many parents have heard this sentence but in ABA we believe that if child is not
progressing it is not their fault. It means we need to change our way of teaching. Each child has their own limits but the diagnosis of ASD does not automatically mean that a child will never learn to speak or communicate.

Myth: A person with autism hits their head against a wall

Some behaviors connected to ASD can be scary or dangerous but they are not an automatic part of the diagnosis. They are a form of communication the person with autism developed since they were not able to communicate their needs in any other functional way. It is our job to teach them a functional mean of communication and by that reduce the challenging behaviors.