What Causes Autism?
There is no known cause of autism yet. One theory suggests that inappropriate responses to people and the environment, by individuals diagnosed within the autistic spectrum umbrella, may be the result of “trauma” to the portion of the brain called the cerebe
llum (as used here, “trauma” has no connotation of abuse). The cerebellum affects a person’s ability to regulate environmental stimuli. Therefore, according to Understanding the Nature of Autism: A Practical Guide, by Janice Janzen, trauma to the cerebellum may explain why the use of language is difficult for individuals with AI. Processing disturbances resulting from autism, the movement of a thought to an action, for example, may take longer. Such a delay in processing does not necessarily mean that a cognitive impairment exists in an individual with autism-it could mean that the person needs additional time or cues in order to process the request. While statistics show that approximately 60% of individuals with autism have cognitive impairment, this figure does not seem to address the movement disturbances and processing delays that individuals with autism experience. Most cognitive tests are given orally, and persons with autism typically learn best through their visual systems rather than their auditory systems.
Communication Socialization Are Key
Regardless of where an individual is on the autism spectrum, it is best to address their socialization and communication skills. Behavior is communication. Therefore, it is imperative for individuals who cannot express themselves through language to develop a communication system. If a person’s efforts to communicate are not supported, behavioral difficulties may arise. A very important part of looking at behavior, as communication is to consider each person’s right to Communicate, if an individual is unable to “talk,” then we must teach communication using pictures, words, or objects. Pictures and other visual strategies are generally successful for teaching individuals with autism.
Emphasize Individual Strengths
If we presume competence in each individual with autism, and provide a way for them to communicate, we will assist individuals with autism toward finding suc
cess. To assist persons with autism in achieving their needs-we must also think in terms of that individual’s strengths. The following practices are recommended for individuals with autism:
A sensory processing evaluation by a qualified occupational therapis who looks at behavior as:
- A communication system available to each person 100% of the school day
- Presume competence
- Tasks broken down into small increments
- Paraprofessionals support for students where appropriate
- The use of a visual/picture/word schedule
- Educational and vocational instruction in typical environments
If we work with each individual’s skills, strengths, and capacities and provide each individual with typical socialization and communication opportunities in his/her neighborhood school.