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What is Austism?

autism train boy playing

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disorder typified by a severe deficit in the ability to engage in meaningful social interactions, as well as impairments in communication skills and is often accompanied by a learning disability. The onset of ASD is in infancy or early childhood, normally between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. Autism is the most common of the developmental disorders with recent reports suggesting at least 1 in 33 children in Northern Ireland are affected and males are affected three to four times as often as females. 


See this report for the prevalence of ASD in Northern Ireland


Just as there is no one type of Autism, there is no one cause identified for Autism but researchers are looking at environmental as well as genetic factors. The underlying neurological or physiological causes are simply unknown. More research is needed. Children with Autism typically display traits around the age of 18-24 months. A checklist for determining if these characteristics are autistic or typical in nature exists that can help assess toddlers as young as 18 months called the 'CHAT'. Feel free to contact PATHWAY TO LEARNING if you have any concerns about our toddler or if you need help in completing the CHAT checklist.

Autism is a "spectrum" disorder with individuals varying in the severity of delays and behaviours. As such no two children with autism are the same and as such should all be treated as individual with differing needs.  Typically children with Autism will display deficits in social communication, social interaction and imagination. This may encompass delays in spoken language as well as nonverbal communication such as pointing, eye contact and joint attention or sharing a common interest. Many children with Autism will develop speech but will struggle with grammar or social language and nonverbal communication such as body language, gestures, metaphors, or facial expressions. They may display aloofness, isolate themselves or show no interest in other people only in objects or in getting other people to meet their needs. They may show obsessive interests in certain things which results in restrictive behavioural patterns and rigidity in changing routines.

Many children with ASD face daily behavioural challenges. They either display too much of a given behaviour, such as tantrums or stereotypical patterns of behaviour, or they display too little of a given behaviour such as eye contact, social interaction or communication. The symptoms associated with ASD may vary greatly between individuals and so any treatment must be specialised and individual to the child. A successful programme must focus on promoting social and language development as well as minimising those behaviours that interfere with the child's learning opportunities and everyday functioning. This is the goal of 'Pathway to Learning.'

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