Autism and Related Conditions
Children with difficulties in relating and communicating may fall within a broad spectrum of disorders that includes language processing disorders, attention disorders, sensory or regulatory disorders, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. These disorders often involve a number of different underlying problems, including:
A child may develop unusual or troubling behaviors in response to these difficulties. For example, a child may be so under-reactive to sensation that he spins in circles in an attempt to increase his sensory input; another child, overwhelmed by the confusing information he’s receiving about his world, may withdraw, finding security in lining up his cars over and over again. Examples of behaviors parents may observe, by area of difficulty, are:
Relating and emotion
Regulatory and sensory-motor
A child receives a diagnosis based on observation of the behaviors outlined above. However, though a child may share a common diagnosis with other children, each has a unique pattern of development and functioning. Each child is unique in his processing of sensory and other information, and his motor planning (the ability to plan and carry out actions). Some children are over reactive to sensations, such as touch and sound, while others are under reactive. Some children have relatively strong auditory memories, and can memorize entire scripts; others have relatively strong visual memories. Some children are able to plan and carry out a number of actions in a row, such as going upstairs, getting a toy and bringing it back down, while others are only able to carry out one action at a time, becoming very fragmented in their behavior.
In addition to differences in sensory processing and motor planning, children differ in their basic mastery of the foundations for relating, communicating, and thinking. Some children with autistic spectrum disorders can form relationships and engage in two-way communication to a limited degree, while others are very self-absorbed and aimless. Some children can focus and attend, and engage with others, but can participate in a back-and-forth flow of communication in only a limited way, finding it difficult to use language meaningfully or connect ideas together for logical and reflective thinking. Other children show some mastery of the basics, and the ability to engage in more complex communication as well as the ability to create ideas and use them logically, but are very limited in their capacity to apply these abilities to a broad range of situations. Therefore, while some children may exhibit common symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder, their individual patterns – and therefore their paths toward recovery - are quite varied.
Prevailing wisdom suggests that children with autistic spectrum disorders cannot love with the same degree of warmth and intimacy as others. Learn more about this myth and others in Autism Myths and Facts. Read “A New Look at Autism,” a letter from Dr. Stanley Greenspan, which sheds light on the modern way of understanding and treating autism.
What is DIR®? >