History of Autism
What is Autism?
Definitions of autism
What are the symptoms?
How do you know my child is
What causes autism?
Is there a cure for autism?
Treatment for autism
Will my child regress?
What is my child's IQ?
How autistic is my child?
What can I as a parent do?
Autism in the Movies
Books on Autism
Asked Questions About Autism
do I know if my child has problems with sensory
Sounds or visual stimuli
that are tolerated by normal children may cause
pain, confusion and/or fear in some autistic
children. Sensory over sensitivity can vary from
very slight to severe. If your child frequently
puts his hands over his ears, this is an
indicator of sensitivity to noise. Children who
flick their fingers in front of their eyes are
likely to have visual sensitivity problems.
Children who enjoy a trip to a large supermarket
or a shopping mall usually have relatively mild
sensory sensitivities. Autistic children with
severe sensory sensitivities will often have
tantrums and other bad behavior in a shopping
mall due to sensory overload. These children are
the ones who will most likely need environmental
modifications in the classroom. Older children
and adults, who remain non-verbal and have very
little language, often have more severe
sensitivities than individuals with good
language. Children with auditory or visual
sensitivity will often have normal hearing and
visual acuity tests. The problem is in the brain,
whereas the ears and eyes are normal.
sights and sound are most likely to cause sensory
overload or confusion in the classroom?
autistic child or adult is different. A sound or
sight, which is painful to one autistic child,
may be attractive to another. The flicker of
fluorescent lighting can be seen by some children
with autism and may be distracting to them. It is
most likely to cause sensory overload in children
who flick their fingers in front of their eyes.
Replacing fluorescents with incandescent bulbs
will be helpful for some children. Many children
with autism are scared of the public address
system, the school bells or the fire alarms,
because the sound hurts the ears. Screeching
electronic feedback from public address systems
or the sound of fire alarms are the worst sounds
because the onset of the sound canNOT be
predicted. Children with milder hearing
sensitivity can sometimes learn to tolerate
hurtful sounds when they know when they will
occur. However, they may NEVER learn to tolerate
Unexpected loud noise. Autistic children with
severe hearing sensitivity should be removed from
the classroom prior to a fire drill. The fear of
a hurtful sound may make an autistic child
fearful of a certain classroom. He may become
afraid to go into the room because he fears that
the fire alarm or the public address systems may
make a hurtful sound. If possible, the buzzes or
bell should be modified to reduce the sound.
Sometimes only a slight reduction in sound is
required to make a buzzer or bell tolerable. Duct
tape can be applied to bells to soften the
sounds. If the public address system has frequent
feedback problems, it should be disconnected.
Echoes and noise can be reduced by installing
carpeting - carpet remnats can sometimes be
obtained from a carpet store at a low cost.
Scraping of chair legs on the floor can be
muffled by placing out tennis balls on the chair
does my child avoid certain foods or always want
to eat the same thing?
foods may be avoided due to sensory over
sensitivity. Crunchy food such as potato chips
may be too loud and sound like a raging forest
fire to children with over sensitive hearing.
Certain odors may be overpowering. However, some
limited food preferences may be bad habits and
are not due to sensory problems.
do some autistic children repeat back what an
adult has said or sing TV commercials?
back what has been said, or being able to sing an
entire TV commercial or children's video is
called "echolalia." Echolalia is
actually a good sign because it indicates that
the child's brain is processing language even
though he may not be understanding the meaning of
the words. These children need to learn that
words are used for communication. If a child says
the word "apple," immediately give him
an apple. This will enable the child to associate
the word "apple" with getting a real
apple. Some autistic children use phrases from TV
commercials or children's videos in an
appropriate manner in other situations. This is
how they learn languages. For example, if a child
says part of a breakfast cereal slogan at
breakfast, give him the cereal.
children also use echolalia to verify what has
been said. Some children have difficulty hearing
hard consonant sounds such as "d" in
dog or "b" in boy. Repeating the phrase
helps them to hear it. Children who pass a pure
tone hearing test can still have difficulty
hearing complex speech sounds. Children with this
difficulty may learn to read and speak by using
flash cards that have both a printed word and a
picture of an object. By using these cards they
learn to associate the spoken word with the
printed word and a picture. Some autistic
children learn vowel sounds more easily than
should educators and parents handle autistic
fixations on things such as lawn mowers or
Fixations should be used to motivate
schoolwork and education. If a child is fixated
on trains, use his interest in trains to motivate
reading or learning arithmetic. Have him read
about trains or do arithmetic problems with
trains. The intense interest in trains can be
used to motivate reading. It is a mistake to take
fixations away, but the child needs to learn that
there are some situations when talking about
trains is not appropriate.
is the difference between PDD and autism?
PDD are behavioral diagnoses. At the present time
there are no medical tests for autism. Autism is
diagnosed based on the child's behavior. Both
children diagnosed with autism and PDD will
benefit from education as children diagnosed with
autism. Both autistic and PDD children should be
placed into a good early education program
immediately after diagnosis. Children diagnosed
with PDD tend to fall into two groups: (1) very
mild autistic symptoms, or (2) some autistic
symptoms in a child who has other severe
neurological problems. Therefore, some children
diagnosed as PDD may be almost normal; and others
have severe neurological problems such as
epilepsy, microencephaly or cerebral palsy. The
problem with the autism and PDD diagnoses is that
they are NOT precise. They are based only on
behavior. In the future, brain scans will be used
for precise diagnosis. Today there is no brain
scan that can be used for diagnosing PDD nor
is Early Intervention important?
scientific studies and practical experience have
shown that the prognosis is greatly improved if a
child is placed into an intense, highly
structured educational program by age two or
three. Autistic children perform stereotype
behaviors such as rocking or twiddling a penny
because engaging in repetitive behaviors shuts
off sounds and sights which cause confusion
and/or pain. The problem is that if the child is
allowed to shut out the world, his brain will not
develop. Autistic and PDD children need many
hours of structured education to keep their brain
engaged with the world. They need to be kept
interacting in a meaningful way with an adult or
another child. The worst things for a young two
to five year old autistic child is to sit alone
watching TV or playing video games all day. His
brain will be shut off from the world. Autistic
children need to be kept engaged; but at the same
time, a teacher must be careful to avoid sensory
overload. Children with milder sensory problems
often respond well to Lovaas-type programs.
However, children with more severe sensory
processing problems may experience sensory
overload. There are two major categories of
children. The first type will respond well to a
therapist who is gently intrusive and pulls them
out of their world. The second type of child has
more neurological problems and they may respond
poorly to a strict Lovaas program. They will
require a gentler approach. Some are "mono
channel" because they cannot see and hear at
the same time. They either have to look at
something or they have to listen. Simultaneous
looking and listening may result in sensory
overload and shutdown. This type of child may
respond best when the teacher whispers quietly in
a dimly illuminated room. A good teacher needs to
tailor his/her teaching method to the child. To
be successful, the teacher has to be gently
insistent. A good teacher knows how hard to push.
To be successful, the teacher has to intrude into
the autistic child's world. With some children,
the teacher can jerk open their "first
door," and with other children, the teacher
has to speak quietly in their "back
does my child want to wear the same clothes all
Autistic children will be
most comfortable with soft cotton against their
skin. New underwear and shirts will be more
comfortable if they are washed several times. It
is often best to avoid spray starch or fabric
softeners that are placed in the dryer. Some
children are allergic to them. [Note: Caretakers
and teachers should also avoid the use of perfume
because some children hate the smell and/or they
are allergic to it.] The problem is switching
back and forth. Switching back-and-forth can be
made more tolerable by wearing tights with
skirts. The tights make the skirt feel the same
as long pants.
If you have additional faq's, you can post it at the
Subscribe to Autism Newsletter (It's Free!)
Send blank email message to
and reply to confirm to automated response.