Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

Is it possible to understand the challenges of autism? Many children are diagnosed with autism globally. One out of every 60 children has autism. The ratio is four boys for every girl. Due to the high prevalence, it is vital to be more knowledgeable about the disorder. This article will give you an overview of what autism is. Also, read “How autism affects my daily life – a mother’s perspective”. It tells how a mother courageously deals with the challenges of autism in her daily life.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder. Neurodevelopment refers to brain development. Neurological pathways influence intellect, reading, social skills, memory, and attention. Autism is thus a disability in brain function. It influences the social and emotional development, communication, and behaviour of affected people. The severity of the disorder differs on the spectrum between Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Autistic Disorder. Children with PDD exhibit mild symptoms compared to Autistic Disorder. You can typically detect autism before the age of 3 years.  

The causes of autism are still unknown. It can be genetic. Complications during early brain development or parents’ age can play a role.

There is no scientific proof that vaccines cause autism. 

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of autism fall into three categories.

Repetitive behaviour patterns are one of the challenges of autism

The behaviour and interests of the child are repetitive and restrictive. She may repeat meaningless phrases (echolalia) or line up her toys. The child may:

  • Be obsessed with things or ideas.
  • Repeat movements and sounds continuous. 
  • Prefer strict routines and rituals and becomes distressed with changes. 
  • Show extreme sensory sensitivity.
  • Have rigid thinking patterns
  • Prefer specific foods
  • Seem indifferent to pain or temperature
  • Be fascinated with objects, smells and light
Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

Impaired social and emotional development

The child is awkward and uneasy in social interactions. She uses unusual social approaches and fail to respond in conventional ways. Children with autism may:

  • not easily recognize emotions.
  • Not know how to show emotions appropriately.
  • Find it hard to manage and control emotions.
  • Not know how to respond to the feelings of other people. 
  • display incohesive gestures and body language, 
  • not make eye contact
  • show little facial expressions, 
  • not show interest in peers or make friends
Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

Difficulty with communication

Communication skills may be the most critical skills a person can have. For a person with autism, communication is not accessible. It is one of the most complex challenges of autism.

  • Some never learn to talk and need very substantial support.
  • Some can talk but still need significant help.  
  • High function children with autism can talk but still need support. 


Autism is not a curable disease. However, treatment and therapy may notably reduce symptoms. Each person is different, and therefore the outcome of treatment varies significantly. The earlier treatment starts, the more effective it is. Treatment is usually multidisciplinary and may include some of the following approaches:

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)

ABA Therapy is personalized therapy designed to help children improve social skills, communication, and self-regulation. Therapists teach the child to handle social interactions more effectively. It also enables them to control emotional responses better. ABA empowers them to communicate their needs, develop positive behaviours, and gain more independence. The therapy involves the whole family. 

The therapist breaks complex tasks into a series of small steps. You must practise each step until the child can complete the task without assistance. The use of positive reinforcement motivates the child to use the new skills in the future.

There are essential steps in ABA programs:

  • Identify the behaviours and skills that will benefit the child.
  • Set specific goals and the outcomes that must be achieved.
  • Determine how to measure the progress of the child.
  • Evaluate the child’s existing skills at the onset of therapy to serve as a baseline against which progress can be measured.
  • Develop and follow a treatment plan.
  • Review progress continuously and adjust the treatment plan as is necessary.
  • Determine if further therapy is necessary.

You can watch the following videos for more in-depth information on ABA therapy.

What is autism, and how does ABA therapy work? 

Best Practices in ASD Treatment: Applied Behavior Analysis Update

Occupational therapy

Children with autism struggle with sensory processing. It explains why they often do not like noise or being touched. They may not like the texture of certain materials or specific foods. Occupational therapy can help with sensory processing. It can also help to improve cognitive skills and communication.

The occupational therapist can assist parents and families in adjusting the environment for the child with autism. They can identify objects that make it difficult for the child with autism. They find different ways of doing things that might assist the child.

Watch the following video to see an occupational therapy session.

Occupational Therapy for Autism

Speech therapy

The speech therapist has various ways to help the child improve verbal and nonverbal communication. They teach the child to articulate words clearly. They may use songs and rhymes to make the child aware of language rhythm. Massaging facial muscles may also improve speech. You can use picture boards with words to communicate effectively with the child. Other techniques may include signing, typing and electronic “talkers”.

The child must learn to understand the subtleties of verbal and nonverbal communication. The speech therapist teaches the child when and how to initiate contact in socially appropriate ways. The child develops communication skills to exchange ideas and get their needs met. They create better relationships with better communication. The speech therapist also assists the child with emotional self-regulation.

The following video shows a speech therapy session with some of the techniques discussed above. 

Learning to Talk – Nonverbal Autism and Speech Therapy

Social skills training

Social Skills Training (SST) assist children to understand the rules and behaviours that help individuals interact with one another. It includes greeting and making eye contact. The child must understand facial expressions, body language and emotions. She learns how to behave in social situations and initiate conversations. The therapist uses stories, videos, and role-play to instil the appropriate skills.

The following is essential in skills training:

  • The environment should be structured and predictable.
  • Keep concepts concrete.
  • Use simplified language to make it easily understandable for the child.
  • Vary the learning opportunities and approaches in groups.
  • Work according to pre-planned and relevant goals.
  • Identify ways to apply the learned skills to real-life situations.
Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

The following video provides in-depth information on social skills training.

Teaching social skills

Dietary approach

A child with autism is likely to have challenges with mealtimes. She may be highly selective about the foods. The child may prefer or exhibit specific ritualistic eating behaviours. It can lead to tantrums when any of these changes. Inadequate nutrition is thus common among children with autism.

The child may be sensitive to the colour, smell, taste, or texture of foods. As a result, they avoid some foods. She may dislike intensely flavoured foods, fruits, or vegetables. She may also reject foods with certain textures. It may mean that the child does not follow a balanced diet. It may also cause constipation. They may not eat enough. The child may have difficulty focusing and sitting still to finish a meal.

There is not an autism diet. It may help to stick to a mealtime routine. Keep mealtimes structured. You can remove objects that make meals difficult for the child. Make the time memorable by allowing the child to choose a favourite dish or a chair to feel comfortable.

A nutritionist may assist in finding and preparing foods that the child finds acceptable whilst providing all the necessary nutrients.

The following video provides more in-depth information.

Eating Issues and Food Selectivity in Autism Spectrum Disorder


Although there is no cure for autism, medicines may alleviate specific hyperactivity, anxiety and sleeping problems. Not all children react positively to medications.

Get the opinion of a psychiatrist, neurologist, or child psychologist knowledgeable about autism. It may take a while before the correct medication and dosage for a specific child can be established.

Watch this video for more information.

Medication Management and Autism


The prognosis depends on how severe the initial symptoms are. High-functioning children may learn to live independently. As adults, they may hold jobs, marry, and have children. Low-functioning children may need care for the rest of their lives. They may never live independently and may require placement for supportive housing.

Do you actually understand the challenges of autism?

Research shows that treatment influences the prognosis. A more significant percentage of children with autism could attend school in a typical classroom in recent years. They could also function in community settings. However, most children with autism remain affected in their ability to communicate and socialize.

Early intervention yields better results. The age at the start of intervention can improve long-term outcomes.

Do you understand the challenges of autism?

Do you live with autism?

Would you please share your challenges below?


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