This article is an earnest attempt to cover as many diverse topics related to autism at one go while simultaneously answering a few of the most frequent questions.
Q1. Do people with autism not like other people? Can they make friends?
Ans. Given the nature of deficits in development of verbal and non-verbal communication, people on the autism spectrum find it hard to interact with others and make friends. Many want to make friends but are unable to do so because they do not understand ‘how’ to make friends. The way people on the spectrum interact with others range from being perceived as aloof to being perceived as stilted and overformal. Often, children with autism enjoy watching other children and may want to be near them but may feel hesitant, unsure and even scared to join them in their activities. Some others may be comfortable and even enthusiastically approach, but may lack the spontaneity to initiate play. As a result, individuals with autism have none or few friends their age.
Q2. How do I choose intervention of my child?
Ans. On the basis of a functional assessment by a competent professional, intervention plans are tailored based upon the individual strengths and needs of each specific child.
The intervention plan may use one or a combination of some of the scientifically proven effective techniques such as:
Q3. Do people with autism have special gifts or talents, and how can I develop these in my child?
Ans. Contrary to what is usually perceived, all children with autism do not have savant skills. Additionally, such skills do not always serve a person with autism well, if there is too much focus on these areas and neglect of the core areas of difficulties like communication and social skills, as well as basic daily living skills.
Q4. Do people with autism also have Intellectual Impairment?
Ans. Most of the IQ tests that are currently developed are not suitable or appropriate for people on the spectrum and do not accurately measure the intelligence of a person with autism. It is very difficult for people with autism to take an IQ test because they may have certain skills but are not able to use them or exhibit them in a test and hence the score that they may get in the test may be skewed.
Q5. Will it help my child if I relocate to the U.S. or another country?
Ans. Early intervention is especially crucial to the child’s progress. This is why an early and accurate diagnosis is so important. Even though in India the number of services and resource persons would be fewer as compared to other countries, the quality of services and professionals available is at par with any other country worldwide.
Q6. Can adults with autism get married and have regular children?
Ans. Before deciding upon marriage, there are some factors that may need to be considered by the person with autism and his/her family:
- The level of functioning of the person, his/her ability to take on the responsibilities that are integral to marriage
- That the partner understands the needs of, and that he or she knows everything about the autistic spouse (if one of them is not autistic).
- Financial status (employment, family support etc.)
Q7. What will happen to my child after me? Is there any hostel for such children?
Ans. Unlike some countries in the west, in India there are few hostels/ residential facilities for people with mental disabilities, and there are no specialist hostels or residences that are currently available for people with autism in India.
It is now increasingly accepted that during the early years of development, it is important for an autistic child to live and grow in a home environment. As the child grows, s/he can be trained to live in a residential facility or a group home since that may be the need of the hour after the parents are no more or are ill and unable to provide the necessary support to the adult with autism.
Q8. What are chances of Autism in the next child born to us? Can we have a normal child?
Ans. If there is one child with autism in the family, the risks of having another child with autism is much higher than in the general population.
Q9. Can speech therapy help my child?
Ans. Some people with autism can learn to speak ,to communicate; others can learn to use signs, objects, pictures, or written means of communication.
Speech therapy can help some children. However, it is absolutely essential for the speech therapist to understand autism and also the individual child.
Q10. Will my child improve? When and will my child ever speak?
Ans. Being a spectrum disorder, there is a huge variation in the development of speech among people with autism. While some people with autism never speak, others start speaking late. Some begin to speak on time but the language does not develop age appropriately.
It is very difficult to say when and whether the child will ever speak. It is confirmed that there is no difficulty in their physical abilities that stops them from speaking. Some children who might have spoken as infants and then lost their speech may or may not get their speech back. Currently, it is unknown why some children develop speech and others do not. Experience with children with autism has shown that if the environment is accepting, and people are aware of the kind of speech they themselves need to use with the child, it can produce positive results.
Read the second part of this article!
Want to read more?