About Four hundred years ago (1624)- the English Poet John Donne, created the phrase ”No man is an Island”: indicating that Human beings, in order to survive and grow, genuinely needs others.
Unfortunately, in the condition, “Childhood Autism” it is exactly opposite: here, lack of reciprocal social communication and varieties of speech impediment, leads to self-limiting unusual interests and repetitive behaviour. Unable to effectively collaborate and communicate with others, the world becomes both threatening and confusing leading to excessive anxiety. Fellow humans become unpredictable, their behaviour confusing; that leads to self-comforting acts, unusual attachments and interests, withdrawn lonely behaviour, and on occasions- physical aggression. Some Autistic individuals also suffer with extreme sensitivity to noise, light and other sensory inputs – causing excessive reaction(s).
According to current estimate(s) about 1% of UK population could be Autistic! Amongst Children about 1 in 50 birth is that of an Autistic Child, while the number was close to 1 in 150 in 2004. Such massive increase in numbers may be partly due to change in diagnostic criteria or other biological/environmental causes. No wonder therefore that Autism/Autistic traits in their children is an increasing concern for both parents and School teachers. The additional problem is that Autism is a lifelong condition and most mild cases are not immediately identifiable, and hence suffer in silence. From educational failure to conduct problems, Autism can be the missing link.
Additionally, quite a significant (at least half) proportion of Autistic young people also suffers from Learning disability (i.e., Sub-average intellectual functioning – manifest usually in low IQ). So, these children are doubly disadvantaged, both at school and also in terms of any vocational training or apprenticeship. Some of the Autistic children (a small proportion) can be high functioning (also known at times as Asperger’s Syndrome). In spite of academic success at times, they tend to be lonely and depressed.
Autism, being a Neurodevelopmental disorder, can coexist with Attention deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD), Tics (including facial and Vocal), and other neurological syndrome(s). Aggression, depression, Suicidality, Psychosis – all can present as complication(s), though they are not core features of an Autistic condition.
Complicated Autistic presentation(s) almost always require professional involvement and analysis. Milder presentations however require collaborative work between the Parents and Teacher, with sometimes SENCO also contributing. The treatment of uncomplicated Autism proceeds through educational and behavioural (psychological) approaches, while drugs are mainly reserved for complicated individuals. While a small proportion of individuals severely disabled with Autism needs intensive support, the milder cases may themselves prefer to be in the main stream education without acquiring any stigma, which is a common difficulty with diagnosis. Primarily the concerned parent can get significant help by reading through the basic facts of the disorder as described in the website of National Autistic Society.