what is autism

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. One should keep in mind however, that autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees - this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention programs.

Autism is one of five disorders that falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development.”

The five disorders under PDD are:
• Autistic Disorder 
• Asperger’s Disorder 
• Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) 
• Rett’s Disorder 
• PDD-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Sensory Integration in Autism:
Sensory integration is a strange thing. Many people, most in fact, don’t understand how it relates to autism, but it plays a major part in how you or your child with autism spectrum disorder reacts to his or her environment. In a person with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, their bodies are wired differently than that of a person who is often referred to as “NT” or “neurologically typical.” They have a very immature nervous system. One that cannot tolerate certain senses -- sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. Some children cannot stand to be touched, while others crave what is referred to as “proprioceptive input.” Does your child love to crash into your couch? Jump on a trampoline? Constantly “crash” into walls or other objects? Even bang his or her head into the wall? This is probably a result of sensory integration dysfunction.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often cannot feel where their bodies are in space. In order to do so, they must constantly stimulate their nerve endings by doing things like spinning, jumping, skipping, running, banging, etc. -- anything that provides the necessary stimulation to the nervous system.