Problems with abstract concepts
Some children develop a good level of concrete, but cannot grasp abstract concepts. Sentences that follow a clear path of reasoning are understood, but the child is lost when the conversation veers off in unexpected directions.
Normally play is natural, through play children explore new concepts, develop new ideas and progress to higher levels of understanding. Children with autism lack this ability to engage in imaginative play, and the pattern of play may appear mechanical with the child following the same motions and actions each time, and long periods may be spent on one particular toy.
This impairment also displays itself in make believe/pretend play, children with Autism lack this ability to engage in this type of role play (e.g. pretending to be a cowboy, using a banana as a phone,) as a result they miss out on opportunities to develop new ideas.
These preoccupations are more pervasive and obsessional in nature than with normal fads or hobbies, some children become attached to cartoon characters and insist on watching endless video replays. Interests vary from the weird to the wonderful, from sock marks left on ankles to how the universe works!
Individuals may be hypersensitive (over-sensitive) or hyposensitive(under-sensitive), the latter may display itself with the child oblivious to temperature or pain, and the former with the child covering his/her ears because of loud noise, or who refuses to eat certain foods because of their texture.
Some individuals with Autism engage in particular behaviours which produce a stimulating effect, such as, hand flapping, rocking, jumping from foot to foot, they tend to display this behaviour when excited/bored or when stressed in order to stimulate themselves and as a way to cope. Overall co-ordination and motor skills can also be affected, with the child unable to perform specific tasks (e.g. doing up buttons). Some children are clumsy and some have difficulties with left/right or front/back – with possible links to dyspraxia.
A minority of people with Autism develop exceptional skills, commonly in areas of art, music, mathematics and memory. The film ‘Rainman’ highlighted this, a popular myth is that these talents are an integral part of the condition.
The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the chances are of the individual receiving the appropriate support. Specialist education and structured support is essential and can really make a difference to the individuals’ life.
Most children are educated in specialised schools, where structured intervention techniques/strategies are used.