Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 26th 2014 Contents With my peevishness at its ripest fervour for
labelling people, particularly children, with sundry
syndromes and varied illnesses, I m turning atten-
tion to another common tag that people seem to
think is trendy to pin on those whose conduct
does not conform to accepted norms. I refer to
First, let s establish that there is nothing like an
Rather, there is a child or there are children who
has/have an autistic condition. I know a mother
too, who insists on saying "we are a family living
with autism," her rationale being that life in the
home with such a child revolves around his needs.
There is much being said about the use of the
terms---"autistic child" versus "child with autism."
For me, given the discriminatory and prejudiced
manner in which our minds and language system
operate, I lean on the side of correctness in the lan-
guage; a theory which supports putting the person
before the disability or the condition, emphasising
the person s humanity rather than labelling them
with a condition---the latter term over the former.
"Language and the meanings we attach to words
very much impact, influence, develop, and change
the attitudes that we have toward the subjects of
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The National Carnival Bands Association of
Trinidad & Tobago (NCBA) invites all competition
prize winners to the distribution of prizes.
Here are some facts to note about autism.
• Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are
both general terms for a group of complex disor-
ders of brain development. These disorders are
characterised, in varying degrees, by difficulties in
social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communi-
cation, and repetitive behaviours.
• Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain
development. However, the most obvious signs of
autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge
between two and three years of age.
• Each individual with autism is unique.
• ASD can be associated with intellectual disability,
difficulties in motor co-ordination and attention
and physical health issues such as sleep and gas-
• Many of those on the autism spectrum have ex-
ceptional abilities in visual skills, music, math, and
academic skills. About 40 per cent have average to
above average intellectual abilities.
• Others with autism have significant disability and
are unable to live independently.
• About 25 per cent of individuals with ASD are non-
verbal but can learn to communicate using other
WHAT IS AUTISM?
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
discussion. That is why people are easily insulted or
upset by word choices. Changing a phrase---even if it
holds the same literal meaning---alters the subtle con-
notations and nuances of the speech, and communicates
a different meaning and context than the original phras-
ing" (Lydia Brown s blog post titled The Significance
of Semantics: Person-First Language: Why It Mat-
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that
manifests itself during the first three years of life. The
rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and
it has a tremendous impact on children, their families,
communities, and societies (UN). In 2008, The UN
designated April 2, World Autism Awareness Day.
With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diag-
nostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into
one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were
recognised as distinct subtypes, including autistic dis-
order, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive devel-
opmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
and Asperger syndrome. (Autism Speaks.com)
Some early signs of ASD---usually seen in the first
two years---are listed below. Some children will have
many of these early warning signs, whereas others
might have only a few. Some behaviour signs can
change over time, or become clearer as the child gets
older. Also, any loss of social or language skills during
this period is cause for concern (raisingchildren.net.au).
• becomes "stuck" on particular toys or objects---for
example, he will flick the light switch off and on
repeatedly, or will play only with cars;
• focuses narrowly on objects and activities and interacts
with toys and objects in one particular way, rather
than more broadly or in the way they were intended
to be played with---for example, turning the wheels
of a toy car or lining up objects;
• is interested in unusual objects or activities---for
example, drains, metal objects, or watching a specific
ad on TV;
• is easily upset by change and must follow routines
---for example, sleeping, feeding or leaving the house
must be done in the same way every time;
• repeats body movements or has unusual body move-
ments, such as back-arching, hand-flapping and
walking on his toes;
• is extremely sensitive to sensory experiences---for
example, is easily upset by certain sounds, or will
eat only foods with a certain texture;
• seeks sensory stimulation---for example, rubs objects
on his mouth, or face, or seeks vibrating objects like
washing machines, or flutters his fingers to the side
of his eyes to watch the light flicker."
Next: Social communications red flags
Understanding the child with autism
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