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Challenges Faced by Children With Autism

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Autism is a disorder that is usually diagnosed around age 3, although some children show signs of brewing problems during infancy, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it can have extremely different features from one child to the next. Despite variations in specific symptoms and their severity, autistic children generally face an uphill battle fitting into society, as they frequently appear to be enmeshed in their own world.

Significance

Children with autism often have a hard time carrying on a conversation and tend to look away when someone is speaking to them, explains MedlinePlus, a website published by the National Institutes of Health. Putting things like crayons, dolls or blocks in a specific order must take place before some autistic kids can focus. Hyperactivity, aggression, emotional outbursts and a short attention span are some of the classic symptoms of autism.

Repetitive Acts

Saying the same sentence over and over again appears to help calm some autistic children, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Spinning in circles, rocking for side to side, flapping hands and other repetitive movements are common signs of autism. Kids with an ASD may also engage in repetitive behaviors known as self-stimulation, or "stimming." For example, an autistic child may switch a light off and on or lock and unlock a child's diary time and time again.

Extreme and Unusual Reactions

One autistic child may seem fearless, while another is more fearful than normal. The same extreme holds true for pain; one child with autism may appear to feel little or no pain while another may overreact to physical discomfort. Autistic children may have peculiar eating habits. Some may go so far as to eat -- or attempt to eat -- rocks and dirt, while others are very picky eaters and will refuse all but a few food items. Kids with an ASD may have unusual and inappropriate responses to situations. For example, a child may laugh when he is reprimanded or cry when being served his favorite food. An autistic child may appear cold and distant at times when an emotional reaction would be considered normal.

Expert Insight

A study published in the March 2013 issue of the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders found autistic children who are depressed may be at a higher risk of suicidal talk or attempts than non-autistic kids. Overall, 77 percent of autistic children with suicidal behaviors were regarded as depressed by their mothers, compared to 43 percent of non-autistic kids. The findings were based on questionnaires filled out by some 800 mothers of children ages 1 to 16 with varying degrees of autism. Depression and suicidal thoughts or actions were more common in kids aged 10 and up.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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