’s Effect On Development And Education Essay, Research Paper
Autism’s effects on Education
Autism is a behavioral syndrome present from early life and defined by deficient social interaction, language and communication, and play. At one time thought by some to be psychodynamically determined, it is now clear that autism represents physiologic dysfunction of one or more undefined brain systems. In addition to characteristic autistic features, many autistic people display a variety of other signs such as attention deficits, mental deficiency, and seizures that are not specific to autism and that denote dysfunction in other brain systems (Bristol 1991). Variations in symptomatology and prognosis among autistic people depend on both the severity and the extent of the underlying brain dysfunction. There is little information about the pathology of autism, owing to the small number of brains examined.
Failure to acquire language at the expected age is the most frequent presenting complaint for preschool autistic children. In fact, all preschool autistic children have some type of development language disorder (dysphasia) (Mesibov and Shea 1996). In contrast to non-autistic dysphasic children, some of whom have predominantly or purely expressive disorders, virtually all pre-school autistic dysphasic children have impaired comprehension of language. Some autistic children are mute and seem to understand very little of what is said to them. They are word-deaf (verbal auditory agnosia), the most severe type of receptive dysphasia (Mesibov and Shea 1996). Others acquire language late and speak unintelligibly in short sentences with incorrect structure. Comprehension may be superior to expression in the majority of autistic children, which is an abnormality when compared with non-autistic children.
Other autistic children start to speak late and at first may produce a fluent, but unintelligible, jargon that has little apparent communication intent. On close scrutiny, this jargon contains bits and pieces of memorized television commercials, common phrases, or random syllables (Prizzant 1994). Despite their fluency, these children regularly have significant comprehension problems, especially for questions and connected speech. Still, other children speak early and clearly but incessantly, in a singsong voice.
An autistic child’s output focuses on a narrow range of favorite topics with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking or for what is occurring at that particular moment. In fact, these children characteristically speak to themselves and have little need for a conversational partner. They may perseverate and ask the same question repeatedly when they fully know the answer. They may recite over-learned phrases, often with perfect imitation of the tone of voice and rhythm of the speaker they are imitating (Prizzant 1994). Especially when young, many verbal autistic children are echolalic, repeating a question rather than responding to it. Echolalia is often associated with pronominal reversal; the child refers to himself as you or by name, rather than as I or me.
Nonverbal communications and language use (pragmatics) are also deficient in autistic children. When unable to communicate verbally, autistic children rarely use gestures or pantomime to get their point across, while normal children learn the power of communication at about one year of age, including pointing and shaking their head no at the behaviors of others (Greenspan 1992). Many autistic children seem unaware of this. Rather than pointing they will get things for themselves, or take their mother’s hand and put it on the desired object. They may cry inconsolably until the parent has guessed by trial and error what the child wants (Greenspan 1992). Attempts to teach mute comprehending children through the visual channel, using sign language, communication boards, and even reading, have met with only modest success, unless the child is quite bright. Most severely dysphasic autistic children do not acquire functional reading skills with current educational practices.
Verbal autistic children do not know how to participate in conversation, maintain topic, take turns, look at their conversational partner, or interpret tone of voice, facial expression, and body language. They have deficient ability to use rhythm and intonation to clarify meaning and often sound stilted. They may speak in a monotone voice, too loudly or softly, or in a singsong fashion.
There are autistic children who learn to read aloud without instruction at a very young age. Typically, they have little understanding of what they have read and cannot use words for communication that they have no difficulty reading. Hyperlexia, with these characteristics, is uncommon in non-autistic children (Rapin 1995). While hyperlexia implies that at least some of these children’s cognitive skills are normal, or even superior, early fluent speech and hyperlexia do not guarantee overall normal intelligence in the autistic population.
The DSM-III-R places inadequate ability to engage in imaginative activity under the same rubric as impaired language and communication (Rapin 1995). No doubt language facilitates this type of activity, but it can also be considered a feature of the strikingly inadequate play of autistic children of all ages.
Autistic children regularly display repetitive movements such as flapping of the hands when excited, twirling, humming, running around in circles, rocking, head banging, twisting of the fingers, or twisting locks of hair, sometimes to the point of baldness (Rapin 1995). They may vehemently resist change in routines or the environment and have unusual tolerance for repetitiveness. For example, a young child may spend hours playing with water, shaking a string, flipping a light switch, rolling a toy car, tearing paper to tiny bits, or doing the same puzzle repeatedly. Another child may study letters, numbers, or stare at a picture rather than play. Some children engage in verbal stereotypes, examples are singing a particular song or repeating a single joke again and again. Attempts to deviate from routines are often resisted strenuously and may lead to major temper tantrums (Rapin 1995).
Inability to play creatively and preference for manipulating, lining up, or classifying toys is often striking (Mesibov and Shea 1996). The children may not recognize that dolls stand for people. Even high-functioning autistic children lack imagination. For example, while they may be taught to feed a doll and put it to sleep, their pretending is repetitive and does not progress to more elaborate schemes of normal children their age.
Verbal autistic children may spend weeks and months on some narrow topic, such as dinosaurs or timetables, to the point where they know all there is to know about it and want to speak about it incessantly, unaware of the boredom of those around them. They may attend to subtle details and become meticulous classifiers and collectors of stones, bottle caps, or other trivial artifacts (Prizzant 1994). Rather than attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to curb this propensity, an intelligent vocational planner can turn it into an asset, guiding the autistic person into a vocation that stresses classification skills.
With autism involving so many complex disabilities, it has been difficult for researchers to come to a conclusion about the precise cause of this developmental disorder is. Doctors, scientists and researchers have studied family genetics, damage to genes during prenatal development and they have also taken a closer look at disorders related to autism. Like any other major disability, a family that bears a child with autism is more likely to have a recurrence, but this has not been the majority case. Because of the lack of known cause in developing autism, treatment has been futile. There are no medications specific in the treatment of autism or it’s many disorders, although a lot of the aggressive behaviors can be controlled with the use of psychotropic and antihypertensive medications (Prizzant 1994). Along with these few medications, intense therapy and consistent routines have proven to be the best method in helping an autistic child to learn how to function in a society and interact appropriately with their environment and social surroundings.
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