Key issues identified for people on the autism spectrum are as follows:
- Social development
- Motor mannerisms
- Sensory information processing
- Behaviour issues
Exploration of Specific issues:
- Difficulties in social development: These include lack of eye contact, difficult social skills and poorly developed play skills. A child or adult may not look at another person when spoken to. The individual may show difficulty engaging with others and actually turn away. A child in a preschool or primary setting may display a difficulty joining other children in play settings. The child may have a different approach to playing with toys e.g. he/she may turn a toy car upside down and rotate the wheels instead of pushing the car along the floor.
- Difficulties in language: May have verbal or non-verbal skills. This means a child may be able to speak (verbal) or a child may not be able to speak (non-verbal). Some children may have demonstrated words and lost them while others may have been no-verbal from the start.
- Difficulties in cognition: May have difficulties of understanding. This means that the child does not see or understand danger e.g. a car on the road. Just because a child has language it does not mean he/she understands the words said.
- Difficulties in stereotypical mannerisms: May have repetitive behaviours. These can vary from child to child e.g. hand flapping, flicking fingers, lining up toys.
- Difficulties in motor skills: May have problems with movement and balance. Motor skills can be fine (using small muscles e.g. writing, tying shoe laces) or gross (using large muscles e.g. running, jumping, catching). Balance can be poorly developed.
- Sensory information processing: May have difficulty with different sensory issues i.e. smell, taste, sound, vision, touch and proprioception. This means the child may react differently to the different senses. Proprioception is our sense that tells our bodies where we are in space. indicators may be heavy handed and heavy footed and constantly seeking impact into muscles and joints e.g. hugging too tightly. Some children are hyper sensitive to the different senses e.g. cannot tolerate different lights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch and for others they seem as though they are unaware of loud noise, lights etc.
- Anxiety: May get anxious with changes especially in routines, people and familiar places e.g. on the way to the supermarket, we decide unexpectedly to go to the post office first can cause a child to get anxious.
- Behaviour issues: May have behavior issues such as agitation or tantrums. These usually emerge when a child is challenged or under pressure in some way and are essentially a form of communication.