Autism is a developmental disorder that occurs to varying degrees in six out of 1,000 people. It causes an impairment of skills that most of us take for granted, and usually results in behaviors that seem strange to the general public. Living with autism has always been a challenge, but increased understanding of the disorder has led to better treatments and greater acceptance.
The symptoms of autism are usually recognizable by age three, and sometimes much earlier. When detected early, the child can usually benefit greatly from therapy. Depending on the level of impairment, however, an autistic person could have special needs throughout life. Even high-functioning autistics must learn to cope with being viewed as different from “normal”, neurotypical people, and that is no small feat.
Autism and Communication
Communication is often a major challenge for autistics. Most have some degree of trouble expressing themselves. Some have relatively normal speech patterns but are unable to hold an interactive conversation; some have trouble expressing themselves in a way that others can understand, and still others speak rarely or not at all.
The solution to the communication dilemma depends on each individual’s specific needs. Some respond well to speech therapy. Some may communicate through a facilitator. Others use a special keyboard that converts typed words into speech. Some even use sign language. These methods allow the autistic to communicate their needs more efficiently and participate in interaction that would otherwise be impossible.
Autism and Social Skills
Another hurdle that autistic people face is the lack of social skills. They often have trouble making friends because they do not interact with others in typical ways. They tend to avoid eye contact, and their repetitive behaviors often result in them being labeled as strange.
Therapy can help the autistic improve their social skills. It is usually conducted one on one at first, using modeling and role playing. Once that is mastered, they can move on to a group setting. Other methods that have been used to aid in the development of social skills include interaction with pets and art and music therapy.
Living with autism is an uphill battle. It requires one to work hard at learning skills that come naturally to non-autistics. It subjects one to many incorrect stereotypes. And it can result in frustration from not being able to communicate and interact with others in the ways that are expected.
However, it is incorrect to assume that autistic people cannot be contributing members of society. They have unique perspectives to share; they just have a harder time getting them across. Through therapy and use of assistive devices, however, they are better able to interact with the rest of the world.