“AUTISM is not a TRAGEDY”--Autism Society Philippines

According to Autism Society Philippines (ASP), 1 in every 150 children is diagnosed with Autism. Although at present the cause of autism remains unclear—or if it can be prevented—many autistic children with early intervention make considerable improvements.

As requisite for early intervention, concerned parents must come to grips with the condition of their child learn to take the next leap if they don’t want “special child” left behind.

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So how do parents know if their child has Autism?

Only developmental experts, psychologists or doctors can diagnose Autism.

The Autism Society Philippines, though, has a list of telltale signs of autistic behaviors: No babbling sound by 1 year; no single words by 16 months; no two-word phrases by 24 months; any loss of language skills at any time; no pretend playing; little interest in making friends; extremely short attention span; no response when called by name; little or no eye-contact; repetitive body movements, such as hand clapping and rocking; intense tantrums; fixations on a single object like spinning fans and unusually strong resistance to changes in routines.

Psychology literatures have it that the unique characteristics of autism can be found in the following skills or abilities: Cognitive, learning, social interaction, play, communication, self-care, behavior, motor or movement and sensory skills.

In terms of cognitive skills, autistic individuals struggle with perspective taking or understanding the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of others. They generally fail to make meaning out of events and would view things from parts of events or tasks rather than seeing the greater picture.

The learning ability of autistic individuals is closely related to their cognitive ability. Since they most likely fail to see the “greater picture” and would tend to over-generalize, they may use the same label for objects or things learned of the same group.

For example, if the autistic child learns that apple is a food, he may label all types of food as apple whether it’s a fruit, a vegetable or any other food.

Contrary to popular belief, many autistic individuals do not necessarily lack the desire to interact with peers and family. Rather, they lack the ability to interact with others appropriately.

Kevin Buque, a third-year SPED student of Xavier University has something to share about this: “When I was first exposed to an autistic pupil, it came to me that they have reservations in interacting with strangers just like any typical child.”

Autistic children who have been isolated from others typically do not initiate play or share toys with peers. They often perform repetitive and unending actions with certain objects. Furthermore, the objects they enjoy playing may not be toys at all and they typically do not use that object in a manner that it was designed to be used like spoons, forks or strings.

Generally, autistic children have verbal delays and they are fond of repeating vocal expressions they have heard recently or in the past.

Autistic children need partial or complete assistance in the performance of toileting, sleeping, eating, bathing, dressing and in their general day-to-day living.

Behavioral problems are believed to be the most challenging and stressful issues faced by schools and parents. The range of these behaviors includes aggression towards others, self injury, destruction of property and inattention.

The most mystifying characteristic of autistic children is their motor skills. Did you know that they may exhibit advanced fine motor skills in using their fingers and hands (like painting or clay modeling) and yet they are unable to catch a large ball or pick up objects on the floor?

Lorelle Juntilla, a 2nd year SPED student of Xavier University has a moving experience with an autistic pupil: “I wanted to test the fine motor skills of the autistic pupil I chose to observe so I let her draw a shape of his choice. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was drawing a picture of the heart. I was moved when she told me that she chose to draw a heart as it symbolized love”.

Autistic children may have varying degree of sensorial perception. They may be sensitive to light but not to sound (thus explaining why some do autistics not react when being called).

This week is celebrated as the Autism week with the end goal of expanding our country’s awareness and understanding of autism. With knowledge, understanding, and sensitivity to their needs, we are able to make an autistic child life even more special. Autism is not a disease; ignorance of this condition is. (paul_careline@live.com)