Autism Spectrum disorders
Autism awareness in today’s society has moved from the shadow of shame and unknown to
the forefront of research and education as an increasing number of children and people with
Autism Spectrum disorders gain attention in every aspect of their everyday lives. This paper
will attempt to explore the many faces of autism: identification, possible causes, treatment,
societal reaction/interaction, the learning/teaching cooperative, and expectations for the
future regarding this disorder in an ever evolving and expanding society.
What is Autism? How does it manifest? Are there specific characteristics inherent to the
disorder? How was it discovered? Who gets it? How is it diagnosed? When? Has the cause
been identified? Is it hereditary, environmental or societal? Is there a cure? What kind of
treatment is available, and how has it changed since discovery of the disorder? Do autistic
children face specific learning challenges? What teaching methods best reach autistic
children? Are some methods more effective than others? Autism is very broad, far-reaching
and involved, but herein I expect to go from a brief discussion of the broad topic to the
specific: ‘How does autism affect the learning/teaching relationship between children and
What is Autism?
Autism was first thought to be mental retardation or insanity. In 1943, Leo Kanner noticed
that these children did not fit the pattern of emotionally disturbed children and instead
recorded patterns of being slow learners. Hans Asperger, making similar discoveries,
discovered what has come to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome – often used to label
autistic people that can talk. Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, working completely
independent of one another, recognized autism for what it was: a developmental disorder
that interferes with a child’s communication, social and interaction behavior. (Carew, 2009)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). It is a
bio-neurological developmental disability usually appearing before the age of three, best
known for impairing a child’s ability to communicate and interact. Life-long disabilities
significantly impact several areas of development: communication impairments, social
difficulty, sensory processing deficits and a need for solid routines within their lives.
Characteristics of Autism manifests in a myriad of ways: delay in verbal development, a
need to finish what they begin, a rather h3 resistance to change in daily routine, lack of
spontaneity, distress at being touched and the ability to show any kind of emotion, as well
as an inability to process and respond to humor.
There are five subcategories associated with ASD, each with it’s own distinctive and unique
features: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD),
Rett’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).