Defining Autism I

A considerable number of parents, who get in touch with the Dyslexia Association of India™, actually ask us what exactly is an Autistic disorder or Autism.

These parents have seen their own children, or children of their friends, or if they are teachers then students in their class engage in a variety of behaviours, but they are not sure which behaviour is considered a part of the childs Autism Diagnosis or, whether the child even can be considered to be on the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

We will try and explain the symptoms of autism and once you understand the characteristics of autism you'll be able to identify the areas which affect children, and their need for intervention is imperative - so that you can bring your child for a proper assessment, or refer a child who is under your care as a teacher for a comprehensive evaluation.

A comprehensive evaluation is very necessary because, with the growth in the world's population whereas previously autism was relatively uncommon, there are speculations now that hypothesize that almost 1 in 48 children being born currently will display some form of symptoms of the autism spectrum disorders.

We normally suggest that parents and teachers consider the situation to be serious enough if the child has a total of up to 6 more symptoms from the following areas, which are seemingly different from what they are observing in what a normally developing child should be indicating;

⇒ Problems with socialization.
⇒ Problems with communication.
⇒ Repetitive and inflexible behaviors.

Additionally these characteristics must have started before the child has turned three years of age.

Children with autism have at least two or more problems in the area of socialization, where firstly they may have difficulty using non-speech behaviours for social interaction, for example they may have trouble making eye contact.

Or they may have difficulty using non speech behaviors for social interaction for example they may have trouble making eye contact along with other aspects of social interaction which might include difficulty using gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice in their interactions with others.

Also children with autism may fail to develop peer relationships which means that basically they may not make friends with children of their own age, and they may not spontaneously seek to share enjoyment, interests or achievement with others.

We would expect a normally developing child to come up to their mother or father or to their teacher or an adult to share and show to them what they are doing. But in the same situation if a child has the possibility of being on the spectrum of autism, we would not see these traits and the child would approach an adult only with an attempt to get something that the child wants.

In addition to this a child with the possibility of having autism, may lack social or emotional responding - that is they may not respond when other people try to get their attention, or they may not respond when other people show emotions - for example if somebody was to get hurt a child with autism may not notice that the other person, whether it is another child in the same class or a adult which may be the mother or the father in this case - has hurt himself by - not being able to pick up the non-verbal as well as the verbal cues.

A child, who is suspected to have autism, must also have at least one or more problems in the area of communication. First for the child may have a delay in or a lack of spoken language. Those children who lack social language are often described as non-verbal. Other children who may have autism would probably have delayed language and they may use a very few words or do not include all aspects of language such as pronouns or prepositions when speaking. Those children who have language may have difficulty starting or continuing a conversation and an example of this would be when a child does not answer or ask questions to keep the conversation going and may also not be interested in bringing up topics of conversation.

So while a mother may ask the child that what did he or she do in school - on that particular day - the child may choose to ignore and not answer the parent giving an impression that they are not interested, or that they are exhibiting a symptom of attention deficit, but actually it would be autism which is making the child totally unaware of what the parent is trying to say, and what is expected of him or her in return to respond back.

The parent may also notice that the child has inflexible and repetitive language, and often tends to repeat what the parent is saying. If for example the parent was to say, do you want an Apple? The child might not say yes mummy I want an Apple, but may actually say something like ‘want an Apple’ or ‘do you want apple’ – note the dropping of the “an”.

The child may also repeat words and sentences from TV shows, movies or songs that they have heard before and this form of scripting, will eventually also show up as a lack of varied spontaneous make-believe play on the childs part.

This lack of social imitative play, which is a normal process of growing up in children where children indulge in pretend play, is difficult for children with autism.

Also normally developing students imitate each other when they play but students with autism have trouble imitating others and show more repetitive and inflexible behaviors for example they may have preservations such as rigidly following routines where they may insist upon doing things the same way every time, such as sitting in the same chair using the same color cup or walking the same way to their playschool school each day, and if the parent or adult who is taking the child to school changes the route, the child would get extremely agitated and would continuously question the mother or father as to why are they walking on the different road or why he or she is not able to see the same house, or is it that they are going to a new school today.

Parents have to be particularly careful, because children with autism may have obsessions with inflexible and limited interests for example they may be obsessively and drawn towards toys such as fire trucks or cars, or over parts of objects such as focusing on the wheels of a car rather than the whole car itself. A significant number of parents who feel very proud that the child is able to recognise different categories of car is at a very early age and is able to itemize each car on sight, may need to observe the children a little bit more carefully to see if the child is exhibiting specific behaviours as we have shared above.

Children who have autism may also have inflexible and repetitive body movements along with inflexibility. These are often referred to as self-stimulatory behaviours, and when a child who has autism is participating in these behaviours he or she is actually rewarding himself or herself internally without having to involve another person to give them the reward. These self stimulatory behaviours have been proven scientifically to give pleasurable sensory input to the child, and it is important for you as a parent or a teacher to be able to identify these behaviours and if you notice that your child is indulging in such behaviours more often than not, it would be highly advisable to have the child screened to understand the nature of the developmental problem before it is too late.

There are also instances where the parents or the teachers may notice that the child is engaging in repetitive movements with their body - such as jumping in place or flapping their hands, or walking on their toes, or just spinning in circles while standing in the same place with their hands outstretched.

When a child is looking at you, through the corner of his eye it is not that the child is not paying attention to you, but that he or she is seeking visual sensory stimulation, and this visual self-stimulatory behaviour can also be observed when you notice your child watching a spinning top, a fan, or the wheels of the cars and trucks on the road.

Some parents may find their children are indulging in self stimulatory behaviours where they are repeatedly making sounds noises, in order to hear themselves or that they may play with their saliva and put fingers in their mouth or even grind their teeth together.

Some children have been known to stimulate themselves through touch where they have favourite materials like a blanket which they prefer, or soft or fuzzy items like a particular doll or a teddy bear which they would catch by the ear or a specific leg, and either hug the same or walk around with it wherever they go, and if they were to get upset you would observe the child running his hand up and down the soft toy or cling on even more tightly to the blanket for a greater sense of security.

Children who show repetitive smelling behaviors such as picking up items and smelling them before using the items or smelling their hands repeatedly need to be carefully observed and we would encourage parents not to take any of these issues lightly as it becomes more difficult with increasing age to be able to remediate any neurodevelopmental difficulty.

The manner in which the Dyslexia Association of India™ functions is that that child is brought to us by the parents for a screening, once we have established with conclusive evidence that the child is on the autism spectrum disorders we develop intervention for the child to change and improve the behavior by increasing their social and communication behaviors while at the same time decreasing their repetitive and inflexible behaviors.

At the Dyslexia Association of India™ we are firmly of the belief that a significant amount of intervention can actually take place at home under the care of the mother or the father rather than spend huge amounts on quasi or non medical professionals who profess to have various therapies to ‘cure’ autism.

Autism is not a curable neurodevelopmental disorder, and parents can actually inadvertently do more harm than benefit by leaving the children in the hands of unqualified professionals who are not trained to subtly understand the various behaviours as well as the emotional and sensory requirement of children with autism.

The Dyslexia Association of India™ users it’s patented and copyright T.R.A.I.N™ Neuroplasticity program to help children with autism overcome their behavioural as well as sensory difficulties and improve their cognitive abilities over a period of time using a combination of neuro plasticity along with applied behavioural analysis so that these children can lead balanced and fruitful lives, and be productive members of the community whereby they can stand on their own feet and have in place a self advocacy plan for the future.

For further information please contact the Dyslexia Association of India™ on our mobile number 88260 22886 or e-mail us at

(Views and observations expressed in our articles are equivocal and personal based on our observations and experience. Being equivocal and personal they are non contestable and Individuals are under no pressure to confirm to our views, thoughts and observations. The accuracy ratio for screening and remedial processes of the DAI™ is extremely high.)