What is Autism?
Autism is a complex developmental disability – the result of a neurological disorder that can seriously limit, if not eradicate, the possibilities for the affected child to interact in a healthy and constructive manner. As such, autism prevents children from interacting typically with others, affecting various aspects of their social and psychological development.
The addition of statistics regarding the incidence of autism round out the distressing story. Diagnoses of autism are at a record high, with 1 in 68 children showing some form of autism, an over 1000% increase over the levels of 10 years. In addition, the incidence rate of autism is showing no sign of decline, thereby leading experts to conclude that autism therapy and intervention is of critical importance in the years to come. Still, both the cause and the reason for the skyrocketing incidence rates, remain disturbingly unknown.
Yet although we don’t know what causes autism, we have a good handle on what can be done to help children afflicted with it. We know is that intensive behavioural intervention is essential in order for children with autism to develop critical life skills and to reach their full potential. This is the very essence of the work we undertake every day at Shining Through (for more on this, please see the Our Program section)
Signs of Autism
Signs of autism can start appearing at a very early age – as early as 17 months. The signs often appear gradually, and can often go unnoticed by parents and caregivers for the first while. As such, most children with autism present themselves as typical children until the signs of autism make themselves visible. Some common signs of autism include impairment in:
- Social interaction as seen by
- overall unresponsiveness to people (and other stimuli) in the child’s environment
- little to no eye contact
- avoidance or indifference to playing with other children
- Communication as seen by
- a lack of or severe delay in speech development
- the repetitive use of words and language, including vocal imitation and repetition
- inability to initiate or sustain a conversation
- Challenging behaviour as seen by
- engaging in repetitive and sometimes inappropriate routines
- a strong resistance to change routines as well as very negative reactions when routines are changed
- preoccupation with parts of objects
- generally inappropriate response to their environment
Since the signs of autism appear gradually, the experience of families with respect to the onset of autism is often one of deep confusion and devastation. One of our parents once told us, “It’s like having your child slowly stolen away from you.” Hence, the onset of autism has far reaching effects, well beyond the straight effects on the affected child. At Shining Through, not only do we engage each and every child in individualized therapy programs that focus on making progress in the rectification of the impairments associated with autism, we also deeply care about the health of the family system that surrounds and nurtures the affected child.
In close dialogue with the child’s parents/caretakers, our staff ensures that the child and his/her family move as effectively as possible toward the goals of therapy.