Autism is considered to be a serious neurological disorder, causing dramatic changes in behavior and affecting social interactions, communication skills and adaptability. The first signs of autism can either be spotted at birth or later in childhood. Child autism is characterized by refusal of social interactions, inability of anticipating movement, poor eye contact, lack of interest towards mothers or caretakers, inability of engaging in imitational acts, preference for repetitive, stereotype activities.
Child autism is different from one child to another. Although autistic children have common behavioral features, every child with autism develops in a different, unique way. Child autism affects the perception of persons and objects and some autistic children may engage in behaviors that lead to self-injury (some autistic children unwillingly bang their heads against their crib). Child autism is also characterized by low adaptation skills and strong resistance to changes in their activities or behaviors. Autism occurs to persons regardless of their IQ. Autistic children sometimes have good skills with numbers, excelling in areas like mathematics. However, it is a fact that all children diagnosed with autism have reduced emotional intelligence.
Child autism can determine either hyper-active or hypo-active behaviors. While some children are very impulsive and difficult to calm down, other children are very still and passive. The most relevant signs of child autism are: avoidance of social interactions and low responsiveness to smile, voice or gestures (many autistic children avoid making any kind of eye contact and sometimes ignore the presence of their parents or caretakers), poor “baby talk”, difficulties in oral speech, (autistic children rarely “initiate” dialogue), predisposition towards repetitive gestures and activities (clapping their hands, waving their heads back and forth, excessive swinging). Autistic children also focus their attention on some particular toys, ignoring everything else around them (unlike normal children that are easily distracted, autistic children ignore external stimuli when concentrating upon a certain activity).
Child autism is also revealed by the inability to play imaginative, “pretend” games. While normal children often pretend to be someone else when playing, or imagine new ways of playing with their toys, autistic children are usually unable to do the same thing. Also, child autism is characterized by the inability to distinguish danger; children with autism seem to be unafraid of dangerous, threatening situations. Emphatic skills are also poor in case of autistic children; they don’t seem to care about other people in distress, feeling no compassion for them.
The causes of child autism and many other Autism Spectrum Disorders are still unknown. Scientists believe that there are certain genetic factors responsible for the development of autism, but the genes that cause autism haven’t yet been identified. Autism has a pronounced hereditary character. Parents with an autistic child in the family are most likely to have another child with the same disorder. An interesting aspect of child autism is the larger numbers of boys affected by the disorder, compared to the numbers of girls with autism.
The signs of child autism must be spotted in time, in order to minimize the risks of further behavioral, cognitive and physical damage. It is vital to correctly diagnose autism at an early age, thus facilitating the process of recovery and preventing severe behavioral deterioration. Also, children with autism need a lot of care and attention, as they tend to engage in self-injurious activities.