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Autism in children is characterized by behavioral problems associated with socializing and interacting with others. Autistic children experience problems with communication, behavioral and other interaction problems.
Existing research findings are not conclusive on the role the environment plays in influencing the behavior of an autistic child. This study is aimed at comparing the behavioral problems of a child with autism in the home and school settings.
The purpose is to find out whether the co morbidity changes with the environment, and assess the influence that the environment has on the behavior of an autistic child. The study looks at the behavior of children with autism when they are with their parents, with strangers or at school to reach a conclusion.
Autism in children is manifested through repetitive behavioral patterns indicative of the disorder. Parents and medical practitioners can tell if a child is autistic through observation of behavior. This condition is in most cases not detected in children until they reach their pre-school years, though in some children, it is detected in their early infancy (Zwaigenbaum, et al. 2005).
The most notable indicators that the condition exists are communication, behavioral and interaction difficulties. This research compares the behavioral patterns of autistic children while at home and school. The aim is to assess the impact that the environment has on the condition.
All children develop uniquely and at their own pace. Children do not have a uniform growth pattern, and it is common to find even twins who grow and develop differently from each other. When a child delays in the development and learning process, in many cases there is usually no cause for alarm.
However, there are naturally established time limits for certain developments to take place, such as the formation of speech, bobbling, walking, among other normal developments.
Parents and caretakers, therefore, should be on the lookout for any abnormalities in a child’s growth and development. For example, if a child does not start talking by the age of two, then this is an indicator of an underlying problem (NIDCD Fact Sheet, 2010).
Autism is defined by Zwaigenbaum, et al. (2005) as a neurodevelopmental disorder whose roots lie in abnormal prenatal brain development. This atypical neurodevelopment continues after birth, and the associated abnormalities continue evolving in early childhood.
Though autism may be diagnosed later in childhood, the condition still presents itself at infancy. After the abnormality is diagnosed, most parents remember having observed certain behaviors in their young children at infancy, which indicate the existence of the condition.
The manifestation of autism is usually different in every child. NIDCD Fact Sheet (2010) reports that a child may not exhibit all the signs of autism and not all children exhibit the same symptoms. Children also exhibit their symptoms at different stages of their life.
The condition also varies in severity and age from one child to another. For some, their main problem may be with speech development, movements, and for others, the problem may lie in communication. Children with autism will usually have different skills and capabilities.
Symptoms that are manifested when the child has reached two years of age are obviously not the initial manifestation of the disorder. There are those present in early childhood, such as resistance to cuddling, excessive irritability or excitement among others.
Behavioral disturbances that affect a child with autism fall in three main categories; behavioral, communication/ language and social skills (NIDCD Fact Sheet, 2010). Impairment in most social skills may not be detectable when the kid is very young.
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A parent may notice irritability, resistance to loving gestures such as cuddling or holding, and the baby may have poor eye contact. However, as the child grows and develops, he/she becomes more noticeable. Many children may behave as if they do not hear the person talking to them, fail to show any response to their names or seem to withdraw to their own private world.
An autistic child may also not show interest in playing with others, often preferring to play alone, and he/she may seem to be unaware of other people’s emotions and feelings. For example if one exhibits anger towards him/her, the child may not even seem to notice that the person is angry.
Many autistic children develop normally and then start exhibiting symptoms of the condition later in childhood. Some children even acquire language communication and language skills, which may be lost when the symptoms begin showing.
When the children are still very young, it is often difficult to notice any language and communication abnormalities with them. Psychologists however, give some of the signs to look out for in infants. NIDCD Fact sheet (2010) & Zwaigenbaum, et al. (2005) point out to an abnormally high incidence of tantrums and being unresponsive to play Honey, et al. (2008).
As they grow older and language developments become more marked and pronounced, it becomes easier to notice abnormalities in the children. One of the common pointers to an autistic problem is delayed speech development. If a child has not started talking at the age of two years, then that is a definite sign that something is wrong.
Others are; avoiding eye contact when talking to someone or making requests, repeating the same word over and over in a conversation, inability to keep a conversation going, incoherence and other problems with verbal communication.
The child may also be unable to communicate nonverbally, often having problems with gestures and facial expressions. If the child already has some communication skills and he/she loses them, then that may be interpreted to be a symptom of the condition.
It is established, however, that not all autistic children develop language and communication problems. Some develop communication capabilities to a normal or almost normal level, but they exhibit other behavioral problems.
There are autistic children who have little problem with vocabularies and can hold rich conversations on a certain topic. These manifestations usually depend on each child’s social and intellectual development. Some of these children are awfully intelligent but only fail to express themselves properly.
In older children especially of school-going ages, one may notice problems with the rhythm of words, sentence organization, and meaning of words. There are those who cannot express themselves orally, but those who do, may compose sentences that do not make sense at all.
Autistic children in most cases use robot like, high pitched voices or a singsong voice. There are children who develop exceptional talents and skills such as singing.
A parent or caretaker of a child with autism will usually report behavioral abnormalities exhibited by the child to a medical practitioner when there is suspicion of autism. Most of these symptoms are recognized from the ages of two and pre-school years. Strong markers of autism abnormalities include repetitive behavior.
The child may perform certain acts such as flapping of hands, singing or spinning repeatedly, or develops and sticks to some routines or rituals. This child will usually be very irritated at the interruption of such routine or ritual. Another indicator of the condition is a child’s fascination with parts of an object.
For example, he/she may not be excited about playing with a toy car, but will be very fascinated by its rolling wheels. The child may stare at this one object for a considerably long time without interruption or showing signs of boredom. He/she will be utterly immersed in the object.
Many autistic children are slower at gaining knowledge, and at times have lower than normal levels of intelligence. The behavioral disturbances present in children with autism often lessen with time.
Autism has no cure, but with proper care and professional help the child can be assisted to a life with semblances of normality. However, these developments fluctuate, and these variations are dependent on the severity of the problem in the child.
Those who are not so severely affected by the condition learn to interact with others, and some are even able to learn in normal schools. As they grow, their behavioral and communication abnormalities diminish and they are less susceptible to disturbances associated with autism. The reverse is, however, true for severely affected children.
Most of these do not learn how to express themselves properly to others, and this makes them very frustrated. This frustration often leads to irritation and those around them often describe them as very irritable.
The problem seems to worsen in their teens, but may lessen in their adulthood. In cases where this does not happen, the autistic individual may turn out to be a threat to self and others, as many develop destructive habits and may be oblivious to pain.
Autistic children may exhibit signs showing that the child is not aware of the feelings of those around them. In severe cases, they may not recognize the faces of those around them. This, however, does not mean that these children have no attachment to their parents, family, teachers or caretakers.
An exceedingly close bond of attachment is created between the child and those that he/she loves, in most cases being the mother or caretaker. School going children may also develop a strong liking for and form attachment with one of their teachers.
Research carried out by Macintosh & Dissanayake, (2006) and Seskin, et al. (2010) revealed that when autistic children were separated from their mothers and later reunited, they exhibited various forms of reactions.
There are those who exhibited secure forms of attachments, others showed insecure attachments while others seemed to be confused and disoriented. The differences in these reactions can be explained in terms of individual relationships between the child and mother, severity of autism or age of the child (Seiskin, et al. 2010.).
These findings seem to discredit previous assertions by psychologists and other researchers that autistic children do not have the capacity to form secure attachments with others. It was also previously thought that these children cannot have close and normal relationships with their peers.
These research findings present a position contrary to what used to be the popular view regarding emotional attachments of autistic children with others.
The fact that these children form attachments with others outside their immediate families is also established. Close relationships with teachers and peers at school are common.
The research findings from Macintosh & Dissanayake’s (2006) research showed that the children seemed to discriminate strangers in preference to their mothers. This does not, however, contradict the position that they can form similar attachments with other people.
Early in life, the child spends most of his/her time with parents or caretakers. They are, as a result, more familiar with the child’s behavior patterns. The teacher comes in later in the life of this child. Information collected from both parents and teachers on the behavior exhibited by autistic children was comparatively similar (Seskin, et al. 2010).
The differences that were reported especially by teachers related to different types of social skills such as assertion, cooperation and self control. These were more developed and prevalent among typically developing children than those with high-functioning autism.
Though parents may note a marked development and improvement in their autistic children once they have spent considerable time under the care of professionals and teachers, the children do not exhibit pronounced differences in behavior when at school or home.
The change of environment from home to school does not seem to have a concrete effect on the behavioral disturbances exhibited by children with autism.
Numerous researches have been conducted with a view of establishing a concrete position on the environmental effects on autism. The research findings referred to in this paper do not clear the grey surrounding this topic.
The effect of change of environment from home to school on the behavior of an autistic child, seems to be very minimal or even negligible.
Honey, et al. (2008). One-year Change in Repetitive Behaviors in Young Children with Communication Disorders Including Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Vol. 38, Issue 8. Web.
Macintosh, K. & Dissanayake, C. (2006). Social Skills and Problem Behaviors in School Aged Children with High-functioning Autism and Asperger’s Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Volume: 36, Issue: 8. Web.
NIDCD Fact Sheet, (2010). Communication Problems in Children with Autism. NIDCD. Web.
Seskin, et al. (2010). Attachment and Autism: Parental Attachment Representations and Relational Behaviors in the Parent-Child Dyad. Journal of abnormal Child Psychology. Vol. 38, Issue 7. Web.
Zwaigenbaum, et al. (2005). Behavioral Manifestations of Autism in the First Year of Life. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience. Vol. 23. Web.