Autism is a severe mental disorder, an extreme form of self-isolation. It is expressed in the avoidance of contact with reality, the poverty of expressing emotions. Autism is characterized by inadequate response and lack of social interaction.
- A child with autism has poor speech development, both receptive (understanding) and expressive. Speech often takes the form of echolalia (repetition of speech elements heard from others or on TV). Only simple unambiguous instructions (“sit down”, “eat”, “close the door”, etc.) are available for understanding. Abstract thinking lags behind, which is manifested in a lack of understanding of such elements of speech as pronouns (yours, mine, his, etc.) and others. A child’s inability to speak or understand speech is the most common complaint from parents when a child is first examined. Speech problems become obvious in the second year of the child’s life.
- The child behaves as if he or she had a clear lack of sensation and perception – i.e., as if he or she was blind and deaf, but a more thorough examination reveals the safety of all sensory modalities. Parents of children with autism complain that it is very difficult for them to attract their children’s attention. Usually they do not maintain contact with their parents’ views and/or do not turn their head in response to the speech addressed to them.
- Children with autism usually do not develop close emotional relationships with their parents. This is revealed during the first months of life, when parents find that the child does not cling to the mother in her arms, and sometimes resists physical contact, straining the back and trying to slip out of the parents’ arms.
- Children with autism do not play with toys as ordinary children do. They do not show much interest in toys and do not play with toys in their spare time. If they play, it is often quite peculiar, for example, spinning the wheels of an upside-down toy truck, twisting a piece of rope, sniffing or sucking a doll. The inability to play with toys can be found in the second year of life.
- There are no or noticeably limited games with peers. The child can either show no interest in such games, or he or she lacks necessary game skills and as a rule does not pay attention to other children, unless he or she participates in a simple game like “dai vzmi”. This trait is also easily detected in the second year of life.
- Self-service skills are absent in children with autism or their development is extremely delayed. It is difficult for them to learn to dress themselves, use the toilet, and eat without assistance. These children do not recognize normal danger and need constant supervision so that they do not suffer serious injuries when crossing the street with heavy traffic, playing with electrical equipment, etc.
- Children with autism have very frequent outbursts of rage and aggression. This aggression can be directed at themselves when children bite their hands, hit the floor with their head, hit the furniture, or hit themselves in the face with their fists. Sometimes aggression is directed at others and then children bite, scratch, or hit their parents. Most parents of children with autism complain that it is difficult for them to cope with them, their low tolerance for frustration and reaction to even the slightest obstacle or ban by blasting rage.
- Children with autism may often exhibit ‘self-stimulating’ behaviors in the form of ritual, repeated stereotypes. They swing their whole body while standing or sitting, clapping their hands, rotating objects without looking at the light, fans and other rotating objects, lining up objects in neat rows, bouncing and crouching or spinning in one place for a long time.