We pass our day-to-day life through various odds and problems. Happiness and sorrows are everyday phenomena of human life. When a baby is born into a family, everybody becomes happy and excited. Parents keep planning so many things for the bright future of the newborn.

One of the issues of their planning is the healthy and normal development of the child. The physical, psycho-social, and intellectual development of a child takes place in a certain way but there are some exceptions in this respect.

Parents get worried when they see that their child is behaving differently from other normal children or not following normal rules of development or lagging behind its age group.

Gradually there prevails despair and frustration in the family. At first, parents have to struggle with their own minds to accept the difference in their child. At the same time, parents have to face many odds due to the negative attitudes of society and family members towards the baby.

Normal development of a child includes acquiring physical skills (sitting, standing, walking, using hand, etc), mental skills (intelligence, emotion, memory, thinking, behavior, personality), and social and communications skills with the growth of age.

On the other hand, development-related problems are usually a longstanding condition of a child, which happens at the time of brain development of a part or whole physical system. Autism is one of the development-related problems of children.

What is autism?

Autism is not a disease. It is an extended form of neutral development-related problem which is known as an autism spectrum disorder. Here 'neuron' means a neutral system that is related to the brain. Again by development-related, we mean the development process of children.

The problem of autism is found in early childhood and it impedes the normal development process of a child. Generally, symptoms of autism are exposed from 18 months to 36 months after a child was born. Abnormality in social relationships, communication, and behavior is the main area of this problem.

Besides, autistic children also suffer from physical, intellectual, learning processes, and sensitivity-related problems. We should bear in mind that all autistic children are not the same. There are some symptoms common to all autistic children but there are some other symptoms that vary from child to child. 

In the autism spectrum, different types of what is autism are found. The autism spectrum can be compared to a rainbow. Like many colors in the rainbow spectrum, there are types of autism on the autism spectrum. One of these types is known as Asperger's syndrome. 

Asperger's Syndrome

It is one kind of autism seen on the autism spectrum. Children suffering from this syndrome can naturally develop intellectual and linguistic skills though they have problems with behaviors. In spite of having normal language skills and adequate vocabulary, they find it difficult to participate in social conversation. They repeat similar behaviors again and again. Specifically, they cannot understand minute details of communication such as making eye contact with others, facial expressions of others, signs and signals, body language, and expression of emotions. They analyze words literally and consequently, they fail to understand idioms, proverbs, fun, or taunts.  Such children do not suffer from retardation in development. In education, they do better and even their intelligence is higher than that of common children. Asperger's syndrome is detected much late even at puberty or manhood. The rate of Asperger's syndrome is ten times higher in boys than in girls.

Children with Asperger's syndrome can read and write properly and confidently but they cannot understand the relevance of facts. Usually, students with Asperger's syndrome have a huge stock of vocabulary, they can speak systematically, and often they can discuss their favorite topics for a long. But the problem is that they hardly realize whether the audience is interested in the subject.

It is difficult for them to maintain social communication through games and sports as they have problems in the neural system, difficulties in physical movement, lack attention to any subjects, lack of sense of time, and problems in muscles. Students with this syndrome may suffer from anxiety because of their problems in organizing power and concentration in work. They love to follow rules and regulations, instructions, and routines in life. Any break of rule causes them mental uneasiness and confusion.

General Behaviors of Autistic Children

1) Not making eye contact.

2) Not responding to calls.

3) Inconsistency in skills-related development.

4) Opposing any change in daily routine.

5) Showing hyperactivity or excitement.

6) Problems in expressing emotions.

7) Abnormal physical gestures.

8) Not being afraid of real dangers whereas getting scared in normal cases.

9) Irrelevant laughter or cry.

10) Unnatural attraction to something.

11) Abnormality in eating, sleeping, discharging urine and stool.

12) Harmful behavior for self or others.

13) Eating anything.

Main Characteristics of Autism

For each child the characteristics and degree of autism are different. The main identifying characteristics are social interaction, communication with others, and repetitive behaviors. These three are known as the main characteristics to identify autism. Due to autism the feeling of senses, skills of communicating with others, and social interaction get retarded. As a result, repetitions of behaviors or enthusiasm for inconsistent behaviors are seen. We should know that autism is caused by neurotic problems and therefore symptoms of two autistic patients are not exactly the same.

Social Symptoms: Most autistic children find it very difficult to maintain social interaction with others. In the first few months of their life, they do not maintain direct eye contact with others. They are indifferent in attitudes and like to be alone. They do not expect attention from others and also do not like to be alone. They do not show normal reactions to other's anger or affection. Autistic children take a long time to learn anything and they do not react to the thinking or feeling of others. Common gestures such as smiling, eye blinking, or facial expressions carry little meaning to them. The children who do not understand the meaning of gestures cannot understand the meaning of the sentence "Come here" in different situations. As they do not realize the meaning of body gestures and facial expressions the social world remains meaningless to autistic children. The tendency of autistic children's being excited and aggressive blocks them from developing social relationships. When they go out and see unfamiliar people, they get angry or frustrated; some of them lose control of themselves. At that time they may break things, hurt others, or even their own body.

The problem of Communication: Language is the main medium of communication. Due to language problems, autistic children face difficulties in communication with others. From linguistic development aspects, autistic children are different. There are some autistic children who never learn how to speak and thus remain speechless for their whole life. Some other children do babbling after a few months of birth but it also stops. Again for some others, it takes 5 - 9 years to learn a language. But the autistic children can learn to communicate with others by means of pictures, signs, or touch. Many autistic children show abnormality in language use. They cannot make correct sentences by using correct words, some of them express their minds with a single word; some others repeat the word they hear. Some autistic children listen to a word and keep repeating the same like a parrot. It is called echolalia.

There are many other autistic children who have a little problem with language use. They can use many words and have conversations correctly. But they cannot understand the differences in the meaning of the same sentence in different situations. Again they also cannot properly realize the changes of meaning caused by changes in body movement and tone.

Repetitive Behaviors: Children with autism are physically normal and almost all of them have the ability to control muscles but unusual repetitive behaviors make them different from other children. This repetitive behavior may be either mild or acute. Many of them move their hands, again and again, stand up on the toes, or keep standing in a special style for a long time. Often they do not play with toys like cars and trains but they arrange them in a line. If anyone breaks the line of toys carelessly, they become worried and frustrated.

Children with autism want to see everything as it is around them. They do not like a change of any sort. They get very annoyed if there is a little change in daily routine like timely eating, taking bath, following the same road to school, etc. Repetitive behaviors keep them engaged in such as gating at moving fans or lights for a long time. Some of them take special interest in numbers, signs, or science.

Some Distinctive Qualities and Strong Aspects of Autism

Some autistic children show outstanding skills and abilities in some specific areas. The number of such gifted children is insignificant but such special qualities make them different from others. It is not true for every autistic child. The guardians should be careful about the special skills of the autistic children and thus they will be able to help the children develop their preferred skills through proper care and attention.

It is found that autistic children can develop their talent in any area they pay attention to. For example, by paying attention to the calendar such children can remember the dates of births of many famous personalities and thus they can remember lots of information at a time. Again by paying attention to a difficult and technical task, they can solve the problem by dividing it into small parts.

Some Strong Sides of Autistic Children

1) Ability to observe minutely.

2) Understand and remembering discipline and routine, sequence pattern, etc.

3) Memorising mathematics, timetable of trains, scores in a game, etc.

4) Skills in computer and technology.

5) Interest in music and musical instruments.

6) Attention to special subjects of preference.

7) Artistic skills.

8) Reading written language at an early age in spite of problems in understanding.

9) Memorising spellings of words.

10) Truthfulness.

11) Skills in solving problems.

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder

In short, it can be said that why autism occurs is not known yet. But along with an increase in awareness and knowledge of autism, the search for its causes is also going on more widely. Though its actual cause is still unknown, it is scientifically established that autism may occur for many unidentified reasons.

From the complexities that arise from autism, it can be inferred that there might be a number of causes of autism. Any time during the antenatal period, during birth or postnatal period autism may take place due to genetic influence or risky environment.

Only a few symptoms of autism in children do not prove that they are suffering from autism. Only can a specialist doctor say whether any child is suffering from autism or not. Doctors like child disease specialists, psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, child neurologists, psychologists, or doctors trained in autism are the right persons to diagnose autism.

Inclusion of Autistic Children into Mainstream Education Programmes

Education programs for autistic children should be intense and elaborate. In that case specialist professionals are needed to determine how many hours a week autistic children will spend for study, based on their behaviors, development, social and academic needs, etc. Only a single method may not be enough to educate autistic children and that is why more than one method may be tried at a time or gradually. Based on applied behavior analysis principles a number of methods may be applied to autistic children where necessary.

Side by side with the normal education system, the teachers have to provide necessary care for the education and development of autistic children. To prepare guardians and others family members to take necessary steps to help the autistic children in their strengths and needs, there should be good communication among them regarding effective strategy, coordination, and assistance for the development of the children. Not only classroom education for autistic children but also the inclusion of them into mainstream education is important. It may be for short time but effective inclusion into mainstream increases the autistic children's confidence and skills. For the success of autistic students in their academic performance, other's positive attitude towards them is very essential. Therefore, their small successes should be highlighted to encourage them. If the teachers, as well as parents and other family members, know the characteristics of autism and the qualities of a specific student, they can make a practical plan to develop the autistic.

How You Can Help Your Autistic Friends at Your Class

Classmates of autistic children are called 'cooperative friends'. We should realize the concept of friendship and development an environment of being united so that autistic children can grow with proper help and due respect. Compassion and a positive mentality for autistic children will benefit all of us because among them some are our brothers or sisters or neighbors or relatives. Autism-related education or training for compassion should not be based on specific students but should be university applicable to all.

Role of Classmates for Autistic Children in Understanding Instructions and Social Interactions

1. Taking students from one class to another

2. Keeping classroom work and educational equipment tidy

3. Maintaining daily class routine

4. Encouraging interaction with other students

5. Retelling the gist of what the teachers teach in the class

6. Assisting the autistic children to participate in classroom discussions

7. Helping them express their answers made orally or with communication machines in writing

8. Giving them required guidelines and motivation when they are frustrated 

9. Rewarding autistic children for maintaining communication with others

10. Giving necessary instructions to understand classroom activities

Generally, the symptoms of autism may be there in a person throughout their life but proper care, assistance, guidelines, and education may improve some of the symptoms to some extent. Those who have minor problems may improve remarkably and lead a more or less normal life. It is seen that children with acute problems do not improve much in speech and cannot take care of themselves even. Obviously, if the problems are detected in their early years, intensive training and instructions may help autistic children achieve success in many fields.

A good number of voluntary organizations namely Proyash, Autism Welfare Foundation, SWAC, Autistic Children Welfare Foundation, etc have been developed in Bangladesh to deal with the problems of autism. There are some specialized schools for the education and training of autistic children. Government support and sponsorship will help these organizations develop more and contribute effectively.

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