within the pervasive developmental disorder spectrum
often appear relatively normal in their development
until the age of 24-30 months, when parents may
notice delays in language, play or social interaction.
Any of the following delays, by themselves, would
not result in a diagnosis of a pervasive developmental
Autism is a combination of several developmental
challenges. The following areas are among those
that may be affected by autism:
Language develops slowly or not at all; uses words
without attaching the usual meaning to them; communicates
with gestures instead of words; short attention
Spends time alone rather than with others; shows
little interest in making friends; less responsive
to social cues such as eye contact or smiles;
May have sensitivities in the areas of sight,
hearing, touch, smell, and taste to a greater
or lesser degree
Lack of spontaneous or imaginative play; does
not imitate others' actions; does not initiate
May be overactive or very passive; throws tantrums
for no apparent reason; perseverant (shows an
obsessive interest in a single item, idea, activity
or over. The child may even "withdraw into
himself", engaging in repetitive self-stimulation
such as rocking or rhythmic moving of the hands.
These children often seek out the security of
routines, and can become very dependent on them.
They may avoid new experiences or situations.
It appears both from the observations of others
and by first person accounts that these children
often experience perceptions differently. Sights,
sounds, textures that we easily accept can cause
anxiety and even rage in a child. One child, for
example, said that red hurt his eyes. Another
flew into a rage when she felt the "prickle"
of wool. Yet other experiences that may seem important
to us may be completely ignored. While at times
they may seem hypersensitive, at other times seeming
to be extremely distractible, yet at other times
being overly focused on an activity or on self-stimulation.
They may find human contact stressful at times,
or show an unusual focus in their sensory experiences,
such as an exaggerated interest in smell, or in
All of the confusion experienced by the child
can make the world a frightful place. Difficulties
in understanding and articulating their own emotions,
or those of others, may cause your child's response
in some situations to appear to be inappropriate.
Emotional outbursts are common and it may be difficult
for them to regain control. Our response to these
outbursts may increase their confusion, frustration
and anger. These outbursts may result in a child
trying to hurt themselves or others.