|Difficulties of living with Autism
Autism is a life-long developmental disorder; it affects the way a person interacts socially. Autism may appear from
birth or from infancy, and causes difficulty in developing normal social relationships, and in standard
It must be stressed that autism is a condition with a wide-ranging degree of severity. Individuals with ASD look no
different from other people, leading to autism being sometimes called the "invisible disability". However,
understanding of their unique condition will prevent unfair judgment of their behavior.
Autistic people do not necessarily have special or ‘savant’ skills. Some autistic people do have unusual drawing
abilities, musical talents, exceptional rote-memory or even lightning-speed mathematical calculation. However, these
cases are in the minority (about 10%) rather than being the average. Autism can be described as a severe disorder
of communication, socialization and imagination.
• Impairment of social interaction: difficulty in relating to others.
• Impairment of social communication: poor use and understanding of language.
• Impairment of imagination: inability to play imaginatively with toys or interact socially due to lack of intuition
and a literal understanding.
Language and Communication Impairments
Individuals with ASD show a lack of appreciation of the functions and pleasures of social communication. Even
those who have a lot speech generally talk ‘at’ others rather than talking with others.
• Lack of understanding of language as a tool for conveying social and emotional information to others. They
may be able to ask for their own needs but find it difficult to talk about feelings or thoughts and to understand the
emotions, ideas and beliefs of others.
• Poor comprehension of the information expressed in body language, ex. gestures, facial expression, posture,
tone of voice, etc. Therefore, they generally do not gesture, imitate or use tone of voice, etc. to convey
information. Some individuals do use gestures but these tend to be odd and inappropriate.
• Those with good vocabularies generally show only a literal understanding of the language, and are unable to
pick up the subtle meanings in language. The subjects that they talk about are often limited to a few preferred
interests. There are people with autism who are fascinated with words but generally do not employ them for social
interaction or conversation.
Formal Language Problems
Social communication is always impaired in ASD individuals, whereas formal language might not be affected. There
may be problems in comprehension of speech, ranging from complete lack of understanding to subtle difficulties in
grasping metaphorical (sarcasm or imagery) and idiomatic (expressions or phrases) speech.
Other problems in speech include:
• A complete absence of speech
• Both immediate and/ or delayed echolalia
• Confusion of the sequence of letters and word, of similar sound or related meanings; mixing up pronouns
and prepositions, ex. using ‘you’ and ‘he’ instead of ‘I’.
• Poor control of pitch, volume and tone of the voice.
Abnormalities of Visual Inspection and Eye Contact
Examples: The use of peripheral vision more than central visual,, responding less to details and more to movement
and outline; looking past people and things, seeing things ‘out of the corners of the eyes’ more often than by direct
Children with autism may look at people and things with brief and rapid glances; or look at others too long and too
intently (seen more in older children). The child may have problems with imitating motor movements. There may
be a tendency to mix up left with right, back with front, or up with down. They may learn better if his/her limbs
are moved through the necessary motions. There are children who develop the ability to imitate movements as they
Problems with Motor Control
• an odd posture when standing
• a bouncy tip-toe way of walking
• jumping, flapping limbs, rocking when excited
Unusual Responses to Sensory Experiences
A child with autism may express fascination, distress or indifference towards sounds, visual stimuli, pain, heat,
cold, the feel of surfaces, tastes, smells, being touched, etc. Their reaction may be rather out of the ordinary, such
as covering the eyes when reacting to a sound.
Inappropriate Emotional Reactions
Examples include lack of fear of real danger, but excessive fear of non-threatening objects or situations; laughing,
weeping or screaming for no apparent reason. These