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Intellectual Disability: Autism Essay

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Updated: May 5th, 2022


Intellectual disability is a group of conditions that affect the intellectual ability of persons and it comprises congenital issues such as mental retardation, learning disabilities and autism, as well as acquired issues like brain injuries (Cass, 1998). This study is aimed at analyzing the intellectual condition that is autism. Autism is a disorder that affects the intellectual development of a child (Beaudet, 2007). It usually presents in the first 2-3 years of life and depresses the area of the brain that handles the growth of social and communication abilities (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007). Though it is not clear what causes autism, several factors have been found to contribute. Genetics, for instance, appears to play a role in the development of the condition, in the sense that identical twins are more likely to both be affected than singular siblings (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007).

In addition, most of the children who develop autism are more often than not related to people with speech challenges (Beaudet, 2007). Families with autistic children also tend to be more affected by neurological problems (Cook and Scherer, 2008). Aside from genetics, other factors that have been thought to contribute to autism, but are yet to be confirmed include mercury poisoning, diet, and sensitivity to vaccines (O’Hearn, Asato, Ordaz, and Luna, 2008).

Speech pathology is a medical field that handles communication and swallowing disorders. Professionals in this practice provide diagnosis and treatment for individuals with communication and swallowing problems (Beaudet, 2007). Speech pathologists normally work in multidisciplinary environments, teaming up with individuals in varied healthcare fields such as occupational therapists, dieticians and audiologists (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006).


The international classification of functioning, disability, and health, generally referred to as ICF is an internationally-developed standard of assessing health and other parameters linked to it (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006). These related parameters are split into two categories: those that are directly linked to the body and its structure, and those that are related to the activities, that the individual takes part in (Beaudet, 2007). The ICF has in recent times been extended to include the environment that individuals operate in (O’Hearn, Asato, Ordaz, and Luna, 2008). The ICF was conceptualized and developed by the World Health Organization to help measure the levels of health and disability (Betancur, Sakurai and Buxbaum, 2009). This measurement is for both the person and the community. It (the ICF) was endorsed by the WHO in 2001 as an international index for assessing health and disability (Szpir, 2006). Because the ICF lays focus on issues in both the body of the person, as well as his/her environment, it provides a good framework for assessing the wellness of the individual and community. This applies to all conditions including intellectual disabilities such as autism

Effects of autism

Autistic individuals and their families tend to be affected by many issues, which normal people do not go through daily. However, because there is no uniformity in the effects that the condition has on a person, the issues affecting persons with autism tend to vary (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006). Each person with autism has his/her own unique needs and challenges, some of which shall be analyzed next.

First, children with autism generally do not tend to know that they are different from other children their age (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007). This is particularly in their early years of life. As such, they would like to take part in all childhood games that their peers are participating in and go to school like their age-mates. Unfortunately, because of their apparent uniqueness which makes them stand out amongst other children, they never get the chance to fulfill these desires, something that leads them to be frustrated and sometimes depressed (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007). Even as they grow older and grasp the full extent of the things they can and those they cannot do, these children face the challenge of finding schools that can properly address their unique needs. Because of this, some children, who are mildly autistic, are forced to go to purely specialized schools, even though they could have functioned well in regular schools, had some support been provided.

In their adulthood, and because of the communication issues that most individuals with autism tend to have, they will naturally have difficulty in finding and keeping jobs. This is fundamental because many establishments do not have the necessary structural and material facilities to help make it easy for persons with autism to communicate and move around (Walsh, Morrow, and Rubenstein, 2008). The societal view of people with disabilities as needy also makes employers shy away from hiring them as facilitating their stay in workplaces generally requires more finances.

The initiation and maintaining of relationships, especially romantic ones, is also a challenge that mature autistic individuals have to contend with (Beaudet, 2007). Society has shaped the perception of individuals regarding beauty to particular standards, which leaves out individuals with disabilities. Human beings are selfish by nature and would like to have the best-looking partners in life. This criterion vocation alone leaves autistic individuals at a disadvantage when it comes to selecting potential mates. Secondly, even when these persons eventually prove themselves as worthy mates, their partners have to take some time to decide whether or not they can handle the specific needs linked to the condition (Van Bourgondien and Reichle, 2003).

Most people with autism tend to require the presence of caretakers around them on an almost full-time basis (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007)). As a result, this tends to put a lot of pressure on their relatives, in regards to providing them with the best care possible. This ends up draining these relatives on physical and emotional levels, forcing them to sometimes require psychological support. This is particularly so for the parents of the children because they have to shoulder the burden of tending to the children on a day and a tight schedule.

Prejudice and societal ignorance is also the other challenge that close relatives of people with autism have to deal with regularly (O’Hearn, Asato, Ordaz, and Luna, 2008). This is because most people tend to have little or no knowledge of the condition and therefore set up discriminatory barriers between them and the affected persons (Beaudet, 2007). In this regard, it takes the relatives of the people with conditions a lot of time and patience to explain to other people that their child or sibling is like any other person out there.

In most countries, no medical facilities are specializing in autism. This makes it difficult for persons with the condition to obtain proper healthcare (O’Hearn, Asato, Ordaz, and Luna, 2008). In places where specialized facilities have been set up, the operators may charge a lot for their services, something which ends up denting the financial resources of affected families. In addition to this, it takes a lot of commitment for the guardians of children with autism to stick to a hospital visit schedule. The situation becomes difficult when the only adults the children can relate with are the close members of their families, who in some situations are on full-time employment.

Children with autism generally have problems with all fundamentals of communication (Hill, 2004). This makes them require a more concerted effort in learning how to speak as well as holding straight conversations. These children need guidance in understanding how to use facial expressions and gestures in getting their message across. This is the area where speech pathologists play a fundamental role.

The role of speech pathologists in the management of autism

After autism has been detected, the speech pathologists draft the best format to handle the communication challenges and help the individual lead normal lives, through improved communication strengths (Happé and Frith, 2006). The therapy sessions require that the pathologist work hand in hand with the child’s family members, teachers, and school-mates as well as with other professionals that may be handling the other challenges that the child may face (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007).

Depending on the outcome of the diagnosis, the specialist may classify the child as either verbal or non-verbal. Non-verbal children cannot get a message across through voice; while verbal have some extent of vocal communicative abilities (Beaudet, 2007). After diagnosis, the pathologist then comes up with a therapy schedule that will help the child learn the five things listed below:

Articulation of words-for persons to communicate well in a particular language, they must understand that each word in that language has a specific way in which it is pronounced. Autistic children, in therapy sessions, are taken through practices aimed at making their tongues and vocal codes combine well to make words come out the way they were intended to (Happé and Frith, 2006).

Initiation of communication-for any communicative process to take place effectively, there has to be an initiator and a respondent. The initiator is the person who kick-starts the conversation, either with a question or just a plain statement. Children with autism, if unguided end up developing tendencies to only communicate when addressed (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006). These individuals have weak success rates at getting messages across because they do not know that they can be at the initiating end of a conversation process (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006). With proper therapy, the affected child can learn how to communicate with other people, without waiting to be prompted.

Establish relationships through communication- through communicative processes, individuals not only pass messages across but also share emotion with others. Children with autism normally do not know how to attach emotional meaning to the messages they send across to other people (Happé and Frith, 2006). However, with the intervention of speech pathologists, these children can learn to understand the meaning conveyed by certain gestures, making it easy for them to communicate effectively with other people (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006).

Self-control- some children with autism tend to be extremely self-centered (Beaudet, 2007). These children will throw tantrums whenever they want something and it is not provided at the particular time that they demand (Happé and Frith, 2006). In most situations, the inability for caretakers to respond to the urgent needs of such children stems from the communication challenge between them and the children. Speech pathologists play a critical role in helping these children learn to calmly pass their message across (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007).

Share ideas- if well taken care of, autistic children can grow up to be near normal (Szpir, 2006). They can become independent individuals who can come up with intelligent ideas to handle particular situations. However, unless they are shown how to effectively share these ideas with other people, they may end up reserving the thoughts to themselves. Speech pathologists help autistic children learn how to pass ideas to other people, as well as how to positively receive other people’s views of a particular thing (Dover and Le Couteur, 2007).

Children in the non-verbal category, unlike their counterparts in the verbal category, need to be taken through specialized therapy to ensure that the above elements are well learned. Therapy in this class of therapy may require specialized equipment such as electronic talkers and picture boards (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert and Burack, 2006). These tools if well used can support non-verbal autism patients to learn to effectively communicate even with people who they have never met before.


This write-up has looked at the developmental challenge that is autism and how speech pathologists can intervene in making the lives of children with the condition more meaningful. The research process has revealed that individuals with autism, together with members of their families tend to go through certain challenges that families without the condition do not face. Later, in the essay, it has been indicated that there are medical professionals who specifically deal with the condition and if consulted in good time, can help make the lives of persons with autism more bearable as compared to if nothing was done. In conclusion, it is worth noting that autism is a condition that is still under study and that more developments are being made regularly.

Reference List

Beaudet, L. (2007). Autism: highly heritable but not inherited. Nat Med, 13(5):534–6. Web.

Betancur, C., Sakurai, T., & Buxbaum, D. (2009). The emerging role of synaptic cell-adhesion pathways in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders. Trends Neurosci, 32(7):402–412. Web.

Cass, H. (1998). Visual impairment and autism: current questions and future research. Autism, 2(2):117–38. Web.

Cook, H. & Scherer, W. (2008). Copy-number variations associated with neuropsychiatric conditions. Nature, 455(7215):919–23. Web.

Dover, J., & Le Couteur, A. (2007). How to diagnose autism. Arch Dis Child, 92(6):540–5. Web.

Happé, F., & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord, 36(1):5–25. Web.

Hill, L. (2004). Executive dysfunction in autism. Trends Cogn Sci, 8(1):26–32. Web.

Mottron, L., & Dawson, M,, Soulières, I., Hubert, B., & Burack, J. (2006). Enhanced perceptual functioning in autism: an update, and eight principles of autistic perception. J Autism Dev Disord, 36(1):27–43. Web.

O’Hearn, K., Asato, M., Ordaz, S., & Luna, B. (2008). Neurodevelopment and executive function in autism. Dev Psychopathol, 20(4):1103–32. Web.

Szpir, M. (2006). Tracing the origins of autism: a spectrum of new studies. Environ Health Perspect, 114(7):A412–8. Web.

Van Bourgondien, E., & Reichle, C. (2003). Schopler E. Effects of a model treatment approach on adults with autism. J Autism Dev Disord, 33(2):131–40. Web.

Walsh, A., Morrow, M., & Rubenstein, L. (2008). Autism and brain development. Cell, 135(3):396–400. Web.

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