EFFECTS OF AUTISM ON SOCIAL
Typically-developing infants are social beings.
Early in life, they gaze at people, turn toward voices, grasp at
fingers, and smile. In contrast, most autistic children do not show
special interest in faces and seem to have tremendous difficulty
learning to engage in everyday human interaction. Even in the first
few months of life, many autistic children seem indifferent to other
people, lacking the eye contact and interaction with others that
non-autistic children are expected to exhibit. Some infants with
autism may appear very calm –
they may cry less often because they do not seek parental attention
Lack of empathy
According to Simon Baron-Cohen, many autistic
children appear to lack a “theory
of mind,” which is the ability to see things from another person’s
perspective. This is a behavior cited as being exclusive to human
beings above the age of five and possibly, to a lesser degree, to
other higher primates such as adult gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos.
Typical five-year-olds can usually develop insights into other people’s
knowledge, feelings, and intentions based on social cues such as
gestures and facial expressions. An autistic individual may lack
these interpretation skills, leaving them unable to predict or understand
other people’s actions or intentions.
Autism, friendships and affection
Children with autism often experience social alienation
during their school-age years. As a response to this, or perhaps
because their social surroundings simply do not “fit” them, many
report inventing imaginary friends, worlds, or scenarios. Making
friends in real life and maintaining those friendships often proves
to be difficult for those with autism.
Autistic children often seem to prefer being alone
and may passively accept such things as hugs and cuddling without
reciprocating, or resist attention altogether. Later, they seldom
seek comfort from others or respond to parents’ displays of anger
or affection in a typical way. Research has suggested that although
autistic children are attached to their parents, their expression
of this attachment may be unusual and difficult to interpret.
Behavioral issues with autism
Although not universal, it is common for children
with autism to have difficulty regulating their behavior, resulting
in crying, verbal outbursts, or self-injurious
behaviors that seem inappropriate or without cause. Those who
have autism generally prefer consistent routines and environments,
and they may react negatively to changes in their surroundings.
It is not uncommon for these individuals to exhibit aggression,
increased levels of self-stimulatory
behavior, self-injury, or extensive withdrawal in overwhelming
situations. However, as the child matures and receives education/training,
he or she can gradually learn to control such behaviors and cope
with difficult changes in other ways.
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