- Laughs (and/or cries) for no apparent reason, and shows distress for reasons not apparent to others
- Has difficulty socializing with others, prefers to be alone; is aloof
- Throws excessive tantrums
- Does not want to cuddle or be cuddled
- Is over-sensitive or under-sensitive to pain
- Does not display any real fear of danger
- Displays physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
- Develops uneven gross/fine motor skills
- Is unresponsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf, although hearing tests in normal range.
Autistic children need, and demand, absolute consistency in their environment. A slight change in any routine - mealtimes, dressing, bathing, or the route taken to school - can be extremely disturbing. Many are highly attuned or even painfully sensitive to certain sounds, textures, tastes, and smells. The brain also seems unable to balance the senses appropriately; some autistic children are oblivious to extreme cold or pain, and may fall and break an arm, yet never cry. Another may bash his head against a wall and not wince, but a light touch may make him scream with alarm.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When evaluating a child, clinicians rely on observed behavior to make a diagnosis, and the parents' own experience and concerns are essential in helping to screen the child. If any of the possible indicators of ASD are found, further comprehensive evaluation by a team of specialists is necessary in order to accurately diagnose or rule out an ASD or other developmental problem.
Every state guarantees special education and related services for children with ASD. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federally mandated program that assures free and appropriate public education for children with diagnosed learning deficits.
An effective treatment program should build on the child's interests, provide a predictable schedule, teach tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engage the child's attention in highly structured activities, and provide regular reinforcement of behavior. Parental involvement is a major factor in treatment success and more programs are beginning to train parents to continue the therapy at home. The degree of independence and integration into mainstream society an autistic individual is capable of ultimately depends on the degree of their autism and the level of therapy they receive.
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