You’ve probably heard the term ‘Autistic spectrum’, but what exactly does this mean? Simply put, the Autism spectrum is a variety of closely related disorders which share several symptoms. These symptoms concern developmental delays, which amongst other areas affect speech, play and social interaction. Together, these developmental delays cause those with autism to experience and make sense of the world around them differently to others. The disorders last a lifetime, with a total of 700,000 individuals living with autism in just the UK alone.
As the autistic spectrum is so incredibly varied, signs that a person might have the disorder also vary drastically, which often makes autism difficult to diagnose. Nevertheless, some symptoms are more common than others. Keep reading for further details of what these are, as well as how you can help autistic individuals with the right sensory aids.
The Signs of Autism in Infants
Signs of autism first make an appearance in infancy. Recognising the signs of autism in infants is key to seeking the right treatment that’ll allow the individual to successfully grow and learn with the support and tools that they need. As stated above, autism embodies a very large spectrum, which means some babies (and adults) will only display mild impairments, whereas others will find day to day life more challenging. The following areas however are those which all autistic individuals will find problematic;
- Communication (both verbal and non-verbal).
- Relating to other people, as well as the world in general.
- Being adaptable with their thoughts and behaviour.
In babies, the above is primarily shown by a lack of; eye contact, willingness to play games or mimic expressions, smiling and laughter, noise in general including response to name call, willingness to follow visual cues such as pointing, making gestures, cuddling, and noticing if others hurt themselves. Autistic behaviour can therefore be understood as the absence of regular behaviour, rather than the addition of irregular behaviour. In babies, this can at first come across as simply being ‘undemanding’ or ‘quiet’, which is why many autistic traits are not picked up on and diagnosed straight away.
It is widely agreed that early intervention in autism helps, due to baby’s brain’s ability to be moulded. If you spot the above signs during infancy, speak to you GP or child development specialist as soon as possible.
Further Characteristics of Autism
In children and into adulthood, the above traits then develop even further;
- Regarding difficulty with speech and language, autistic children and adults may speak in abnormal tones, repeat phrases excessively, regularly use language incorrectly, refer to themselves in the third person, find it difficult to understand simple directions, questions or statements, and take things incredibly literally.
- Regarding communication, autistic individuals’ facial expressions commonly do not suit their actual mood, they often cannot pick up on other people’s expressions either, they display excessive clumsiness, and react tremendously strongly to certain sights, smells, textures and sounds.
- Regarding inflexibility, autistic individuals tend to follow rigid routines, and become upset at the slightest disruption of said routine or indeed any change in schedule/environment. They may also display unusual attachments to inanimate objects, obsessively line up or order said objects, and become transfixed on moving or spinning objects. Many also memorise and recite specific facts and statistics about niche topics of interest.
Sensory Aids For Autism
One of the most effective methods of helping those with autism is through sensory aids. The sensory needs of an individual with autism vary greatly and are much more complex than those without. As previously discussed, autistic individuals are easily overwhelmed, and subsequently require regular sensory breaks to remove upsetting stimulus to alleviate the risk of breakdowns.
One of the best and most effective sensory aids for autism is therefore access to a sensory room. Sensory rooms for autism have proven to be an ideal environment as they enable autistic individuals to calm down and relax; something they can find incredibly difficult in a ‘normal’ environment.
Spending time in a sensory room, with softened lighting, fibre optics, projectors, bubble tubes and aromatherapy, plus therapeutic sound and music, creates an environment that filters out extraneous sensory information (the common source of an autistic individual’s overwhelm). This environment allows those with autism to organise their thoughts, better process information, and subsequently communicate, speak and socialise much more effectively. Sensory rooms for autism therefore reduce anxiety and remove sensory blockage. For further details of the wonderful benefits sensory aids for autism provide, please read our blog post on the subject.
We are experts in the realm of sensory equipment and the life-changing impact it can have on special populations. If you require any further information on the effect sensory equipment can have on autistic individuals, or need help choosing and setting up your own sensory environment for autism, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team!