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Children with autism exhibit, to a greater or lesser degree, a Triad of Impairment, which is the defining characteristic of autism: • Communication: Language impairment across all modes of communication: speech, intonation, gesture, facial expression and other body language. • Imagination: Rigidity and inflexibility of thought process: resistance to change, obsessional and ritualistic behaviour. • Socialisation: Difficulties with social relationships, poor social timing, lack of social empathy, rejection of normal body contact, inappropriate eye contact. (Dr Lorna Wing) Language and communication: People with autism have difficulty understanding the meaning of words and the intention of the speaker; they take things literally and are not able to interpret gestures, intonation, facial expressions or body language. Many children will have delayed speech and some may not develop speech at all and will need other communication aids e.g. pictures, photos, gestures etc. Eye contact will be difficult for them. Inflexibility of thought and imagination: People with autism have difficulty manipulating thoughts in an imaginative way. They may become unduly upset by any changes in their known pattern of life or routine. They may have a tendency towards repetitive actions within a restrictive range, such as body rocking, hand or arm flapping. They do not usually play with toys conventionally; they may watch one part of it or do the same thing to it for long periods. Imaginative play is limited, especially if other children are involved, although some children can imitate something they have seen. Lack of social skills: People with autism have little or no understanding of normal social interaction. They do not automatically make relationships and have difficulty understanding that other people have feelings, thoughts and intentions. They will have difficulty playing and communicating with others, or taking others’ feelings into account. Sensory perception and responses: Some children will be over-sensitive to certain sounds, smells, sights, lights and textures. They may react to changes in their clothing, food, noise and light levels. Their daily environment should be ‘autism friendly’ - secure so that they cannot wander into unsafe areas, visually helpful as to what is in or behind cupboards, drawers, doors etc. As well as being hypersensitive to some stimuli, children with autism may have very high pain thresholds, so any playtime or classroom ‘accident’ should be carefully checked. What causes autism? To date, there is no clear answer to this question. It is believed to be present from birth (in most cases - though there is debate about whether it can develop later). It appears to have some genetic predisposing factors and is associated with some types of brain damage. Work is being done on the possibility that allergies and dietary intolerances play a part. It is now clear that it is not caused by bad parenting - an idea which, thankfully, has been discredited. It is unlikely that any single cause is going to be found. It is probable that a number of factors are operating together to give rise to the condition. As yet, there is no proven cure. As work progresses in this area it may be that prevention or improved treatment may be a possibility. People with autism have a different view of what is important. Their perceptions are different. People with autism view the world in a different way. Different aspects of the environment interest them. It is important to note that the word is different. It is not necessarily wrong or a lesser way of being. We should always respect the right of the person with autism to be themselves. However, the world in general does not share their view of life. If children are to have any chance of taking part in our world they must learn to understand it and make sense of it as best they can. Autism is a very individual disorder. The manifestations are diverse and all of the problems can be found in relation to other disorders. It is the ‘Triad of Impairment’ that is the common feature to all people with autism. It is also important to remember that people with autism are not immune to other illnesses or handicaps. It is tempting to attribute every difficulty experienced to the autism but it may be due to deafness, depression or even just the normal behaviour of a boisterous and mischievous child. As with any child, your child will be influenced by their own personality, family characteristics, their own strengths and weaknesses. Children with autism find listening and giving attention to the spoken word very difficult. Make it easier for them by keeping unnecessary ‘chat’ to a minimum, speak clearly and calmly, ensure you have their attention before speaking and allow lots of time for them to make sense of what you have said.http://autismandaspergersinthefamily.freeforums.org/index.php