Autism is a lifelong developmental condition. It is not a disease nor is it a result of karma. When someone has autism their brain has developed in a different way than people without autism. Many people with autism refer to themselves as autistic, and people without autism are called neurotypical.
Because the brain of an autistic person develops differently than the brain of neurotypical people, they interact with the world differently. That is why autism is diagnosed by looking at a person’s behaviour. Autism cannot be diagnosed by how someone looks, by blood tests, or by brain scans. A qualified professional can help evaluate your child to see if he or she is on the autism spectrum.
Autism is called a spectrum because it can affect people differently. Each autistic person will have unique strengths and unique struggles. Both boys and girls can have autism, although they can experience it differently. A common area of difficulty can be communication, both in expressing themselves and in responding to others. This is often the first thing parents notice that is different about their child.
Sometimes individuals with autism behave in a way that others consider “naughty”. A teacher may complain that the child does not sit or listen. Instead of judging a behaviour like hitting or screaming as “bad”, it is important to figure out what someone is trying to communicate. Challenging behaviours often arise because of communication difficulties or environmental factors (sounds, smells, feelings on the skin, etc). Often these behaviours diminish once changes are made in the environment or by figuring out a different way to communicate.
Parents might also notice that their child responds to the surrounding world in a different way than other children. The child might have very deep interests in certain objects or subjects. Often they notice details that other people miss. They might strongly dislike certain smells, tastes or sensations, but there might be others that they like very intensely.
An early autism diagnosis can give a child the best opportunity to develop their communication skills. But regardless of their age, children and adults with autism can benefit from an individualised education that addresses their unique needs and builds on their strengths. This can help them participate in the wider society and to experience the good things in life.