July 15, 2024

THE World Autism Awareness Day is observed around the globe on April 2 to raise awareness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) , autism is a complex nervous system disability which affects normal brain function. WHO said autism usually manifests during the first three years of a person’s life. Autism is described as an impairments of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system affecting communication, social interaction and behaviour. People with autism have difficulty with communication along with a wide range of social activities and interaction.

National education facilitator at Autism South Africa, Vicky Lamb, told the Gazette that autism is seen as a difference within society and not necessarily as a disorder. “This does not mean that people on the spectrum do not have a disability, they do, however, with support, understanding and acceptance we see autistic people reach their potential,” Lamb said. As many people around the world have been reported to have signs of autism disability, Autism South Africa said there isn’t confirmed cause of autism.

“We know that genetics play a role as well as environmental factors, and there is a lot of research in this area. All autistic people are different, and so their challenges will be different when interacting with other people. However, some of the more common ones are; not picking up on sarcasm, missing the figurative meaning in language, not giving eye contact. So it might appear as though they are not paying attention. They often are paying attention even without giving eye contact.”

Lamb said there were several early signs of autism. Parents are advised to contact the Autism South Africa should they notice one of the following signs:

  • Self-injurious behaviour, e.g. head banging, scratching or biting.
  • Unusual habits such as rocking, hand flapping and spinning of objects.
  • The development of speech and language may be atypical, absent or delayed.
  • Indifference to, or dislike of being touched, held or cuddled.
  • Minimal reaction to verbal input and sometimes acts as though he/she is deaf.
  • Sense of touch, taste, sight, hearing and/or smell may be heightened or lowered.
  • Sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason.
  • Inappropriate attachment to objects.
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns.
  • Displays extreme distress or tantrums for no apparent reason.
  • Prefers to play alone.
  • Difficulty in interacting with others and little or no eye contact.
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