Tuesday, April 2, 2013

World Autism Awareness Day - Autism and Child Development

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  Autism is a developmental disorder that is still being studied and is affecting many people, especially children.  Unfortunately, many parents do not pick up on the symptoms and become frustrated when they cannot parent a child or children with Autism.  

It is important that all people regardless of whether they have children or not to become informed.  Here is a scholarly paper I wrote for my Psychology degree at CUNY.  This work is protected under copyright©.    

Autism and Child Development ©

Autism is a growing problem in America, especially among children. It is a developmental problem that affects the way the brain processes information and maps it. Mental tasks which are normally easy to do become difficult for those with autism. They may not speak much, or not speak at all.
Children with autism have problems interpreting emotion, not only their own but of those around them. Because of this, they have a very difficult time communicating and socializing with others. During the early developmental stages of childhood, it is important for parents to pay close attention to their children to see if any possible signs of autism exist. According to the CDC, 1 in 88 children have autism. (Jon Baio, 2012) It affects every race, but seems more prevalent among Caucasian male children. (Benjamin Zablotsky & Christopher Smith, 2012)

Autism must be dealt with early in child development if a child in order for a child to function in society. This presents a big problem for schools who are sometimes not equipped to deal with children with autism. Large numbers of autistic children are often grouped together in special education and do not get the appropriate treatment and attention needed to help them develop in a way that will help them function as normal as possible. (Benjamin Zablotsky & Christopher Smith, 2012)

When parents try to get their children assistance in the education system, they are often ignored. (Benjamin Zablotsky & Christopher Smith, 2012) Parents of autistic children not only face this problem but also the problem of what treatment to give their children. There is a lot of information out there regarding autism that parents can get lost in it. Parents are sometimes given recommendations for treatments that are not helpful for their autistic children. (Eric M. Butter & Bernard Metz, 2006)

Autism presents itself different in each child. It is therefore hard to pinpoint the exact intervention needed in order for a child to develop as best as possible. The origin of autism is still not exactly known. Some believe it is genetic, while others believe external environment factors have a play in its development in children. This brings about a new debate within the Nature versus Nurture controversy which is an issue that is debated in the scientific community. (Berger, 2008)

The plasticity of early childhood development must be taken advantage of in order for children with autism to develop well. Plasticity is a concept that describes how individuals can be formed throughout life. (Berger, 2008) Early intervention can help children with autism cope with it and at the same time prepare them to live a normal life.

During early childhood, parents and pediatricians should pay close attention to the sensorimotor, assimilation and accommodation skills of a child. Piaget described these terms as necessary for the development of a child. They deal with how children begin to use cognitive abilities and how to apply them in daily life. (Berger, 2008) This is important because the absence or misapplication of any of these might indicate autism.

Autistic children seem to behave like any other child; however, they begin to regress from their development. They have problems with sensory which can present itself as high sensitivity to pain or tactility. (ALEXANDRA H. SOLOMON, 2012) Any signs of this as well as those that seem out of the ordinary must be taken into account. They must be discussed with a pediatrician who should forward parents to a psychologist that specializes in intervention for autistic children.

As stated before, the earlier attention is given to autism, the better it will be for children who have it. According to the article I selected, the studies of Howard et al. (2005) showed a great improvement in the cognitive abilities of children who had early intervention as opposed to those who were placed in regular special education programs. (Eric M. Butter & Bernard Metz, 2006) This shows that early intervention works and will benefit not only children with autism, but also their parents.

Studies show that parents of autistic children can have marital problems due to the stress involving the care of said children. (Julie Ramisch, 2012) Having to care for a child with autism can bring about much stress and sometimes guilt. (ALEXANDRA H. SOLOMON, 2012) As social beings, humans are used to interacting with one another. When a joke is said, others laugh. When one is sad, others feel sympathy and respond. However, with autism, these factors are sometimes not present. Parents are left trying to understand what their child wants or what the child is feeling. If an autistic child cannot speak at all, this adds to the stress and miscommunication between the child and his or her parents.

If parents have difficulty in caring with children with autism, just imagine how a teacher will have difficulty at school teaching a child with autism without proper training. Parents must be involved in the education of their children. (Benjamin Zablotsky & Christopher Smith, 2012) This alongside early intervention will ensure a child with autism with a bright future. In the article I chose, eight autistic children who were recruited with the internet were evaluated and directed to appropriate intervention programs or EIBI. The evaluation took one day and was about 8 hours long. (Eric M. Butter & Bernard Metz, 2006)
In order to find out what intervention was needed, the children were given psychological, language and academic tests in order to see at what level they functioned in each area. (Eric M. Butter & Bernard Metz, 2006) The children were divided into three groups. Three of the children were given 40 hours a week of EIBI, another group of three was given 20-30 hours of EIBI, and the last two children were given 10-20 hours of EIBI services. (Eric M. Butter & Bernard Metz, 2006)

The results showed an increase in adaptive behavior and overall IQ. This shows that early intervention helps children with autism. Unfortunately, not too many parents are aware of these kinds of studies and feel helpless when enrolling a child in school. The cost of programs also adds to the dilemma that parents face in getting their autistic children appropriate intervention that will be beneficial for development.
Children with autism should not feel left out of living a normal life. They should be able to do almost everything a child that has no autism does. Early intervention is the key to helping these children and their families. Despite the costs, parents must do everything possible to enroll their autistic children in EIBI services so their children will not be furthered delayed.

The procrastination of these services furthers the complications that autism presents in the lives of children who have it and their families. After EIBI services, parents will notice their autistic children behave more like a typical child, not only emotionally, but also cognitively. They will be able to learn the ABC’s and 123’s just like any other child and can apply that knowledge in every day life.

The ability to function in society is extremely important. How can a child with autism be able to advance in school, get a job and support him/herself or a future family without the skills and knowledge necessary to do this? Autism should not be seen as a hopeless case which some parents sometimes feel it is. While there is no cure or quick remedy for autism, EIBI services can do a lot to manage the condition.

There is no denying the studies regarding its positive affects on autistic children. More schools should incorporate these services in order to help alleviate the educational burden parents have in dealing with autistic children. Children are our most precious asset and must be cared for immensely. Whether autistic or not, they have intrinsic value that must be validated by our love, attention and care. Early intervention is something that must be encouraged and supported by law officials. The expenses should not deter families of autistic children.
We learn in early childhood psychology the importance of learning at the first three years of life. At this stage, children absorb things and can easily learn languages. This is the time where early intervention must take place so that an autistic child can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare him or her for school and interaction with the general public.

As we learn more about autism using brain scans and behavioral studies, we will better the techniques needed to help those with autism function well in society – possibly even remove it permanently. In the mean time, we can encourage parents and guardians of children with autism to take advantage of the services already in existence. These services can help a great deal. It will benefit both the child and parents. Children with autism will be able to live as normal as possible and parents will not have a sense of being burden with something they are not prepared to handle.

It is a win-win situation which must not be set aside. Special education programs in schools do little to help autistic children. Parents must take advantage that the Disabilities Act allows their participation in their children’s education and get schools to help their autistic children. No child should be left behind, as the cliché goes; especially an autistic one.© 


ALEXANDRA H. SOLOMON, B. C. (2012). Understanding Autism: How Family Therapists Can Support Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Family Process, Vol. 51(No. 2).

Benjamin Zablotsky, K. B., & Christopher Smith. (2012). An Evaluation of School Involvement and Satisfaction of Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. AMERICAN JOURNAL ON INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, Vol. 117(No. 4), 316–330. doi:DOI: 10.1352/1944-7558-117.4.316

Berger, K. S. (2008). The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence (Eighth Edition.). Worth Publishers.

Eric M. Butter, J. A. M., & Bernard Metz. (2006). Eight Case Reports of Learning Recovery in Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders After Early Intervention. Behavioral Interventions, 21(4), 227–243.

Jon Baio. (2012). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Surveillance Summaries, 61(SS03)(Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)), 1–19.

Julie Ramisch. (2012). MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS WORKING WITH COUPLES WHO HAVE CHILDREN WITH AUTISM. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol. 38(No. 2), 305–316. doi:doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2010.00210.x

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