In 1911, Eugene Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, began using the term “autism”, which stems from the Greek word “autos”, meaning “self.” Bleuler used the term to describe a group of symptoms seem in patients suffering from schizophrenia. Essentially, the term means an “isolated self” or a person excluded from social interactions. In the 1940s, researchers in the United States modified the term to describe children who experienced emotional or social problems. Thus, relinquishing the word “autism” from it's connection to schizophrenia (Hirsh 2009, pg 1).
Today autism is described as a complex developmental disability, and the term Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is used to encompass a group of disabilities with similar features. The three categories of autism spectrum disorders are Autistic Disorder (also known as “classic autism), Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PPD-NOS) (NICHD 2010).
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders can usually be observed in children at eighteen months of age. They include problems with communication, social interactions, and repetitive behavior. While some have severe ASD symptoms, others only possess mild symptoms like those suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. The variations of symptoms and severity is why autism is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder (NICHD 2010).
Communication in those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder proves to be difficult. Some children suffering from ASDs never babble or coo and remain mute throughout the duration of their lives, while others don't develop language skills until ages five to nine. The children and adults that develop language skills often use them in peculiar ways. Some cannot form meaningful sentences and are unable to express themselves, while others cannot participate in give and take conversations. Another symptom that is widely seen is the inability to control voice tone or body language. Many people suffering from ASDs use a flat, monotone voice, even when speaking of things that interest them. They also give non-verbal body language signs that don't correspond with things being said at the time. This makes it extremely hard for others to understand and interpret what people with ASDs are trying to communicate (NIMH, pg 7-8).
Not only do people with ASDs have problems communicating, they also have issues with social interactions. Children with ASDs tend to limit interactions and avoid eye contact. They are seen as disinterested and indifferent. While studies have shown that children with ASDs are attached to their parents, they cannot express this affection and attachment. They also cannot interpret social cues, such as frowning, smiling, or extending arms for a hug. To a person with an ASD, every expression means the same thing. They have difficulty seeing the world through another person's perspective, which significantly increases the disconnect between those with ASDs and those without (NIMH,...