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Developing an Understanding of Autism Development

By Rishitha Giri


  • Understanding Autism

  • Symptoms and Behaviors

  • How Development Should Be Carried Through

  • Development Measures Being Taken in Elementary Schools

What is Autism?

All of us have heard of autism, and may have even had someone in our lives with autism. We also know that they are different from us and have different behaviors. But what exactly is autism? The full term is autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and it is a disability that causes developmental complications because of differences in the brain. It is estimated that about one in every 100 kids is born with autism. Autism is mainly caused by environmental and genetic factors. Kids with ASD may have a larger hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that has the job of storing memories, but it is unknown if this difference stretches into an older age. Also, although unclear to be a common trait, it has been found that the size of the amygdala in the brain may be smaller than normal, especially if they have anxiety.

This disorder manipulates how the person sees the world around them and how they interact with it. People with autism are categorized into three levels on the autism spectrum: level 1 is requiring support, level 2 is requiring substantial support, and level 3 is requiring very substantial support. Doctors classify autism on these levels based on various areas of behavior, such as communication and repetitive actions, and this helps see what assistance they may need in their daily lives, with level 3 encompassing the more severe conditions.

Signs, Symptoms, and Behaviors

The development of ASD is first present before 3 years of age. Some behaviors may appear later in life, although it is possible for the symptoms to improve later on as well. How far symptoms of ASD start to show varies from child to child. Children with ASD develop new skills around 18 and 24 months of age, however they start to lose the skills they had before or stop developing new skills altogether.

Two common symptoms that can be seen in early stages of autism are social communication and social interaction abnormalities. For example, a child with autism may avoid eye contact, may not respond to their name by 9 months old, and doesn’t show emotion or signs of interest in their surroundings. Also, another common symptom that can be sighted in early stages of autism is restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests, such as playing with toys the same way every time they play when they get upset if patterns they create are messed up, or have obsessive interests. Other characteristics include lack of verbal communication, movement, and learning skills, unusual sleeping or eating habits that lead to gastrointestinal issues, and anxiety or stress.

Autism in Teens and Adults

As a parent of a child with autism, it is common to wonder how their child’s physical and hormonal changes will impact their development into their later life. Many parents have claimed that there are more cases of autism in teenage years as the years go by. Furthermore, the parents also argue that their teen is becoming more rebellious and their autism is getting “worse” as they grow older. However, some researchers have argued against this claim, stating that part of the reason they may see changes in the child’s autism that may be viewed as “worse” could be due to the fact that they are simply becoming teenagers. They may gain a more profound want for independence, although it may be hard to achieve. Also, as they get older, they must face more aspects of their social life that can be very triggering, such as more social situations, communication, and having to think more flexibly. Although autism cannot get worse as age increases, the increasing age may strengthen the severity of already existing symptoms.

Autism in Elementary Schools

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) has stated that children with various disabilities such as autism have the right to special education and early intervention services to care for their needs. IDEA has also established that parents have an important role in putting their child in a school setting that works best for them and their disability. If a child has a developmental delay at an age younger than 3, they can receive early intervention services at no cost. Again, it is important for the parent to research the programs available to them and find the one that is most appropriate for their child, not just the best program in their region. Special education is what comes after early intervention. Unlike early intervention services which focus on the overall development of the child, special education strives to provide the child with an education regardless of their disability. Special education services can be found in local elementary schools, as well as outside facilities. Also, many classrooms in elementary schools are also being equipped with assistive technology to help with critical skills.


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