Autism Spectrum Disorder

In Their Own World

Children and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often described as being in their own world. Some might seem to not to quite get what is happening in the world around them or even just not seem to care. Put simply, when it comes to socialising with other children, they usually don’t quite "get it".

A fundamental part of ASD is having problems understanding and being understood in social situations (Buxbaum & Hof, 2013). For children one end of the spectrum this can be fairly obvious. They might insist on playing alone, problems with speech, and avoid eye contact. Some might not show and understand facial expressions, eye contact and gestures in the way that other children do.

For children at the other end of the autism spectrum this social challenge can be much more difficult to spot unless you are looking for it. They might tend to take what is said too literally, have trouble keeping a conversation flowing, or fail to notice when it is time to change the topic of conversation more than other children their age.

Understanding & Being Understood

These issues reflect challenges in social thinking. An essential part of getting on with other people is having a clear understanding of how they are feeling and being able to reflect back to them that you understand that in words and actions. By definition, children with ASD have at least some difficulty with these social thinking skills. In the absence of a clear understanding of other people’s feelings, motives and intensions children often make false assumptions, and show few clues about their own. What this means in the real world is that children with ASD usually act in way that doesn’t quite fit other people’s perception of social situations, and that people don’t act in a way that fits the child’s perception. This issue causes frequent misunderstanding confusion and frustration for children with ASD, their parents, siblings and teachers.

Programs that can help build confidence and social thinking skills

Despite having notable skills and abilities, many children with high functioning ASD are described as “bright but clueless” because of these problems. Specialised programs have been developed to address these challenges in social communication. These programs are specifically designed to address issues related social situations like: difficulties in seeing other’s perspective, poor problem solving, poor organisation, rigid thinking, and prioritising in social situations (Winner, 2006).

Managing ASD related Anxiety and Anger

Many children with ASD have delayed abilities in understanding, expressing and managing their emotions (Attwood, 2007). Psychological strategies, such as specific modified Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can help children to be more consciously aware of their own and other’s emotions; and learn to respond more appropriately and effectively to situations or emotions. It has been found to effective treat anxiety and anger issues for children and teenagers with ASD (Volkmar, et al, 2014). This specialised approach gives a child with ASD the opportunity to develop their self-awareness, self control, and constructive strategies to manage emotions (Attwood, 2004).

 

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