Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) now affects 1 in 68 children.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by persistent problems in social communication and interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
Individuals with ASD deal with varying levels of ability and disability. Within the spectrum, individuals range from those who have no functional speech to those who speak without limitation, or those who are socially withdrawn to those who are, albeit unconventional or unmindful, socially active. However, early intervention can have a positive impact on a child’s social and emotional development.
We as parents often feel that we are a means to an end because our children only acknowledge us when they need something from us. However, with early intervention, their emotional and social behaviour begins to change.
An example from our own experience is the change in our son’s behaviour when we drop him off at school. In the past, he was happy to be left at school, doing his own thing. In fact, I was able to leave on a business trip for a week at a time without any reaction from him. He did not pay attention to me or his father in the way his friends paid attention to their parents. But now (our son is turning 5 years old in October this year), he is beginning to change. Since the beginning of the year, we have noticed a dramatic change in the small things, for instance, while his friends have accepted that their parents leave them at school, our son does not want us to leave him there anymore. He is happy while we stand around, but the moment we try to leave, he starts to cry. He is also not happy when I leave on a business trip anymore. If I am away for more than a few days, he starts to act out. This might sound strange, but we are ecstatic about these small changes in our son’s behavior. He has, in our book, reached an important milestone, and is proof that social interaction in a preschool from as young as 12 months is a huge contributing factor to developing social and emotional skills.
The individual with ASD
It is important to separate the individual from the label society has pinned to them. Labels such as “severe” or “high functioning” exist to explain certain behaviors and conditions to the rest of the world. They do not, and cannot, place value on individuality or ultimately decide which aspects of the disorder describe capability. Each person with ASD has his or her own personality, interests, strengths, weaknesses and independent will that should be recognized and respected.
Written by Elizabeth Tsikkos for Inspirare Academy www.thehannasmithagency.com