AutismSpectrum Disorder in Early Childhood

AutismSpectrum Disorder in Early Childhood

Autisticspectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the neurodevelopmental conditionsthat affect the communication, behavioral, motor, and social skills.The American Psychiatric Association’s DSMI-5 define ASD as asingle neurodevelopmental disorder that includes other conditions(such as autism, children disintegration disorder, Asperger’ssyndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder) that have beenconsidered separately in the past (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Consequently,ASD is characterized by multiple symptoms that can also be found inpatients suffering from each of the separate disorders. Most of thesymptoms are associated with impaired development in social, motor,and emotional skills. This paper will provide a summary of keyconcepts, and the impact of ASD on the development of social, motor,and emotional skills.

Prevalenceof ASD

ASDis mainly detected among children, although developmental limitationsthat are caused by this disorder persist to later stages of humangrowth. Center for Diseases Control (2016) estimated that one out ofevery 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD every year. Allchildren are at the risk of contracting this disorder, irrespectiveof their racial, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds. This impliesthat there are no significant disparities that have been discoveredwith respect to differences in demographic and social characteristicsthat influence the prevalence of ASD. However, boys are affecteddisproportionately compared to their counterpart girls. CDC (2016)identified that boys are 4.5 times more likely to suffer from ASDthan the girls. Caregivers are able to determine the probability oftheir children suffering from ASD by observing retardation in thedevelopment of basic skills, such as language and coordination.


Thereare three major risk factors for ASD. The first and the most commonrisk factors is genetic predisposition. According to the CDC (2016)twin studies have shown that 36 % to 39 % of the kids diagnosed withASD have at least one relative who once suffered from this condition.However, non-identical twin studies have provided different results,where these children are 31 % more likely to contract ASD. Thegenetic predisposition has been confirmed by studies showing thatparents with a kid suffering from ASD have a 2-18 % probability ofhaving another kid with the same condition (CDC, 2016). The secondrisk factor is old age, which has been confirmed by researchindicating that children of parents who are aged about forty yearsand above have a higher chance of suffering from ASD compared tochildren born of younger parents (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Moreover,children of older parents suffer from the challenge of intellectualretardation, which worsens the ASD. Third, suffering from otherdevelopmental conditions subject children to the risk of contractingthe ASD. Co-occurrence is detected in more than 83 % of all cases ofASD, which is a clear indication of the fact that psychological anddevelopmental disorders increase the chances of suffering from thespectrum (CDC, 2016).

Earlywarning signs (such as the inability of the kid to smile and respondto caregivers) can be detected during the first year of birth, butmost of the children are diagnosed at the age of two years. The factthat most of the ASD cases are caused by genetic predispositionimplies that the condition cannot be prevented (CDC, 2016). However,there are interventions that can be used to help the affected kidsacquire some skills that enable them to lead a fulfilling life.

Effectof ASD on the development of social skills

Adeficit in social skills is among the key factors that differentiateASD from the most of the developmental disorders. Children sufferingfrom ASD prefer being alone and do not find satisfaction in socialinteractions with other people and their care givers. Studies haveshown that a deficiency in social skills can be noticed as early asbetween the first 5 and 24 months of birth (Bhatia, Rajender, Kanwal&amp Chaudhary, 2010). During this time, the affected child finds itdifficult to maintain eye contact with people and use simplemovements, including pointing at things. During the school-age,children with ASD experience a lot of difficulty in making friendsand interacting with other kids. They suffer from frequent andintense loneliness compared to their non-autistic counterparts.Although the affected children of the school-going age are able toexpress some attachment to the caregivers, their effect is difficultto interpret because it is unusual.

Thelack of adequate development in social skills among children with ASDis associated with three key factors. First, studies have shown thatthere exists a significant dysfunction in the part of the brain thatregulates social cognition and motivation among children with ASD(Flusberg, 2010). This dysfunction explains why ASD patients fail tofind any value in social interactions, and instead choose to spendmost of their time alone. Secondly, studies that are based on thetheory of enhanced perceptual functioning have shown that kids withASD suffer from an impairment in global processing, which isattributed to an increase in attention to details (Flusberg, 2010).This reduces their ability to interpret information and socialinteractions in context. This is because effective socialinteractions require the ability of an individual to integrateinformation that comes from different modalities (such as posture,gesture, tone of voice, and gaze) simultaneously. The lack of thisability results in a detrimental impact on social relationships.Lastly, neural imaging research has shown that individuals sufferingfrom ASD on the regions of the brain (such as occipito-temporalareas) that process low-level perceptual information are unable tosynthesize social as well as non-social information (Flusberg, 2010).This limits their ability to identify the benefits of socialinteractions.

Effectof ASD on the development of emotional skills

Childrenwith ASD experience atypical development of emotional skills. Thelack of adequate development of emotional skills among the affectedkids is confirmed by several factors. First, these kids are unable todifferentiate emotions. In other words, they are unable to recognizetheir own feelings as well as the emotions expressed by other people(Mazefsky, Herringtn, Scarpa, Scargel &amp Maddox, 2013). Secondly,kids with ASD cannot copy and apply emotional expressions,irrespective of the circumstances. Third, the affected kidsdemonstrate the lack of ability to comprehend and interpret differentemotions. This is portrayed in different ways, including the lack ofempathy with other kids. This implies that all dimensions ofemotional development are affected since children with ASD cannotrecognize, express, and respond to emotions. In some cases, theability to express emotions start developing at the age of 5-7 years,but the affected kids are still unstable interpret or demonstrate aclear understanding of the feelings that they try to express.

Theslow rate at which the development of emotional skills occurs amongthe kids with the spectrum is associated with a dysfunction inemotional regulation. Emotional regulation is associated with theability of an individual to intentionally and automatically modify anemotional state and then promote some goal-directed or adaptivebehavior (Mazefsky, 2013). The dysfunction among the ASD patients isattributed to the lack of ability to utilize emotional regulationstrategies to emotional stimuli. Instead, patients tend to react inan impulsive way, which is demonstrated by aggression, tantrums, andself-injury, all of which are attributed to the poor management ofemotions (Mazefsky, 2013).

Moreover,neurological differences misdirect the mediation process, whichaffect the experiential perception of the patients in a negative way.For an instant, the response to stimuli becomes neurologicallyentrenched when the kid living with spectrum considers some stimulias being overwhelming and their amygdale engages into an action(Australian Department of Social Services, 2016). This slows down thedevelopment of the stress memory circuit and forces the affected kidsto experience life and the world in a different way from their normalcounterparts. However, some people may develop the capacity to dealwith emotion-laden circumstances towards the end of their earlychildhood or during their later stages of development.

Developmentof motor skills among children with ASD

Anormal process of development is characterized by the acquisition ofadequate sensory and motor skills. Sensory processing helps people toregister, integrate, and give responses to sensory input (Provost,Heimerl &amp Lopez, 2016). The type of skills classified as part ofsensory processing includes social interaction and walking around agiven place. A suitable development of sensory system created aplatform for the establishment of motor skills, which includeparaxial, gross, and fine skills. The sensory integration theoryholds that an effective development of motor skills can only beachieved if the tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems arewell established (Provost, Heimerl &amp Lopez, 2016). The theory isused to demonstrate how ASD limit the development of motor skillsfrom early stages of development.

ASDcondition starts by limiting the development of the sensoryprocessing system, which inhibits the establishment of motor skills.The retarded development of the sensory motor skills among kidssuffering from the spectrum is characterized by several symptoms,including some difficulties in joint attention, imitation,communication, restricted interest to play, limited registration ofsensory input, and sensory sensitivity (Provost, Heimerl &amp Lopez,2016). It has been confirmed that the limited development of themotor skills is among the most common challenges that affect kidswith ASD. However, these skills develop, but at an extremely slowpace.

Accordingto Provost, Heimerl &amp Lopez (2016) over 85 % of the kidssuffering from ASD demonstrate relatively good motor skills, buttheir development cannot be considered to be typical. In addition,some children have normal motor skills in certain areas, whileabnormality is only detected in a few aspects of their capabilities.A study has shown that 67 % of the kids with ASD achieve normalmilestone in the development of motor skills that facilitate walkingindependently, but they experience retarded growth in hand strengthand other areas (Provost, Heimerl &amp Lopez, 2016). This impliesthat children suffering from the spectrum achieve the development ofmotor skills, but the pace cannot be compared with the normalchildren.

HelpingASD patients to develop emotional, social, and motor skills

Thechallenge of retarded development in the basic skills among the ASDpatients can be addressed using different strategies. For example,interventions that are based on the concept of applied behavioranalysis enhance functional communication skills, limit problematicbehaviors, and prepare the affected kids for social interactions(Flusberg, 2010). Effective interventions that are tailored to helpkids develop social skills should start at the earliest timepossible. For example, caregivers should train children on how toimitate non-verbal cues, which has been shown to enhance the languageskills among kids with the spectrum within the first 12 months(Flusberg, 2010). Additionally, joint attention interventions thatinvolve training of the affected children together with the normalkids results in the successful development of the basic skills thatthey need to interact with their peers. Although these interventionsmay not help the affected children achieve the same level of socialskills as their normal counterparts, they enhance their ability toestablish some social interactions.

Similarly,effective training programs can help children acquire substantialemotional skills. This can be achieved through four key strategies.First, caregivers of the kids with ASD should consistently labelemotions in their natural contexts (ADSS, 2016). For example, thecaregiver should be able to point out different emotions when readingstorybooks to the affected kids. Secondly, the caregiver should beresponsive to any signs of emotional expression by their kids. Forexample, smiling back to kids who appear excited motivates them tocontinue expressing what they feel, thus boosting the development ofemotional skills. Third, caregivers should encourage the sickchildren to maintain eye contact when talking. This can beaccomplished by using a bright voice, coupled with a lot of emotionalexpressions in order to attract the attention of the kids (ADSS,2016). Eye contact helps children learn some emotional skills fromother people and practice how to express them on their own.

Earlyinterventions can help kids suffering from ASD develop motor skills.Effective intervention should focus on the development of both thesensory and motor skills (McCleery, Sampanis, Elliott, Stefanidou,2013). Trainers or caregivers can utilize many interventions to helpkids develop motor skills, but there are three key strategies thatare accessible to children even in the home settings. For example,the stock up on play-dough help the affected children developstretching and squeezing skills, which strengthen the fingers andhand muscles. Similarly, finger painting is a simple technique thatenhances the strength of the hands and the ability of the affectedchild to coordinate between the eyes and hand. The process of makingpaper dolls acts as a source of entertainment and strengthens thehand muscles at the same time. Caregivers should apply these skillsinterchangeably in order to facilitate a balanced development ofmotor skills.


AutismSpectrum Disorder is a condition that limits the development ofemotional, social, and motor skills during early childhood. Some ofthe key factors that increase the probability of suffering from ASDinclude genetic predisposition and giving birth during old age.Inadequate development of social skills is confirmed by the inabilityof the affected kids to interact with the caregivers and their peers.In addition, the sick children find it difficult to express theiremotions and respond to other people. Moreover, kids with thespectrum take more years before they can start walking, liftingobjects, and moving body parts in a coordinated manner. These areindicators of retarded development of motor skills.


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