Theravive Home

The Latest in Therapy News

October 29, 2014
by Marti Wormuth, MA

A Brief Overview of Autism

October 29, 2014 08:27 by Marti Wormuth, MA

One thing that a lot of media attention has gone toward as of recent is a neurobehavioral disorder known as autism, and everything that falls under the "autism umbrella." Autism is a category of disorders has only really been researched and discovered in the past couple of decades, and has only really been explored for probably the last 20 years or so. That being said, we're going to take a brief look at autism, how it affects someone's life, and what people do in order to deal with the signs and symptoms of this incredibly complicated disorder. 

What is Autism?

This is a really difficult question to answer, to be honest. As mentioned above, it's a neurobehavioral disorder, but honestly, that's where the similarities stop. Some people have more severe cases of the disorder than others, and because of this, they will have different symptoms that come up during their diagnosis. Many of the autism symptoms are on a social and communication level, but there may be physical symptoms and other symptoms that come up as well. Basically, people with autism think a lot differently than everyone else, and they see the world differently, which makes it hard for them to communicate with others in an effective manner. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms of autism: 

  • Slow progression in talking - a child may not be "babbling" by 9 months, and won't be talking, showing interest in things, or won't be able to identify things by the time that they are a year old. 
  • No pretend play by the time the child is a year and a half old - also other symptoms that show a lack of "imagination." 
  • Insensitivity to pain.
  • Inability to pick up on social cues.
  • Awkwardness in social situations. 
  • Repetitive behavior without cause.
  • Lack of positive physical affection. 
  • Aggression or behavior that results in self harm.
  • Inability to understand things in a "figurative" manner (only takes things "literally.")
  • Large motions.
  • Fixation with one particular topic or subject matter. 

These aren't the only symptoms, and sometimes, they can be harder to catch in adults. Don't make an assumption about the disorder - make sure that you get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional so that they can help you start the journey toward communicating and understanding each other better. 

How Do People Cope with Autism? 

There are a lot of ways that people cope with autism. Some of the things that people do end up taking a lot of adjustment, because it's a new way to look at life and to live. Here are some of the most common ones that people use when they (or their loved ones) are living with this disorder.  

Teaching the child or adult to take care of themselves in particular ways. This can be hard, because a lot of autistic persons have a hard time with self care. The good news is, it doesn't have to be that way. Take the time to teach your child simple little things, even if it is as easy as "this is where your clothes go when they are dirty." By doing this, the person has a feeling of independence, it gives them self confidence, and it helps them to feel more comfortable with themselves and the life that they are living. It may also open the door for learning other processes later on in life as well. This will take some time, especially with more complicated tasks (like getting dressed or learning how to feed or take care of a pet), but with continued reinforcement, you can make it work and the feeling of independence will help everyone that is involved to feel more comfortable. 

Help parents to understand how to communicate with their child(ren). Parents sometimes have the hardest time because they don't know how to communicate with their children in an effective manner. That being said, sometimes the parent needs a little bit of retraining. Instead of yelling at or getting impatient with the child, parents need to learn how to effectively communicate with their children in a way that is effective and healthy for everyone involved. It will also help to prevent meltdowns, both on the part of the parent and on the part of the child, which can help life to be a lot easier for everyone in your family. 

Teaching the child better communication skills, even if it's difficult to do so. This is hard, but even as parents need to learn to communicate with their autistic children, children need to learn better communication skills as well. There are behavioral therapists out there who work with autistic persons and teach them to do exactly this, even though it can take time and practice. It's very frustrating for people to get their point across if they're "stuck" in their autistic mind, so it's important to take the time and teach them to communicate. Even if it's different than how everyone else communicates, if they can be understood, that is progress in the highest degree. 

Identify triggers and help you or your child deal with them in an appropriate manner. Triggers are hard, and many times, a child with autism will struggle with certain things that just make them really upset. It may not make sense at first, but after awhile, you will get a better understanding of what these triggers are, why they trigger your child, and how you can help your child to work through their feelings. Meltdowns for an autistic child can be incredibly scary, so prevention and/or knowing how to "head them off at the pass" can play a significant role in helping you and your child to enjoy life just a little bit more. 

Do things that are enjoyable. Have fun with your child. There are likely things that your child is fixated with or that they love to do. If so, then play off of that. Some autistic children love playing games, and they become fixated with learning about all types of games and how to win them; others get fixated on animals and do the same thing. Incorporate those things into your activities. Not only will your child enjoy them (and hopefully you will enjoy them too), but it will help them to feel a little more connected to you, because they will believe that you actually care about them and what they like and don't like. 

Have positive, beneficial relationships. This is important, because of the lack of social skills that many autistic children have, it's hard for them to develop relationships sometimes. Other times, they click with people like they're their best friend forever. By encouraging positive, beneficial relationships with people that genuinely care about the person, it will be a lot easier for them to feel comfortable and safe with life; and as the parent, you will also feel better that your child isn't going through life alone; that they have friends who love and care for them as much as you do.  

Patience. This is the key. All of the above things take a lot of patience, and sometimes, you will feel like your patience has run out at times. And that's okay! Having a child or another loved one with autism can be a very trying experience, and because of that, it's really important that you take time for yourself so that you can stay patient with them. By having patience, it will be easier for everyone around you and you will be better able to help your child or loved one through their life. If you have autism, you should also try to have patience for other people and for yourself - it can be hard, especially if you don't fully understand what is going on, but by loving yourself and caring for yourself, you're going to feel a lot better about the situation and you will feel more confident and can do things on your own. 

As you may expect, autism is quite difficult for some people to come to terms to. If you or someone you love is dealing with autism in some way, shape, or form, you should look for help. There are plenty of mental health professionals out there that can help you or your loved ones to work through or cope with the symptoms, and treatment may make it easier for you (or them) to get through their daily life without a lot of complications. Use our site to find a specialist today and gets started on your journey toward mental health wellness. 


Autism New Jersey. (2014). Autism 101. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

New, M. (2012, June 01). Autism. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

Notbohm, E. (2012). Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

Sanghavi, D. (2013). Understanding Autism. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

WebMD, LLC. (2000, January 03). Autism Causes, Types of Autism, Definition, and Symptoms. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

About the Author

Marti Wormuth, MA Marti Wormuth, MA

My name is Marti Wormuth and I have been blogging for a number of years. I've got a Master's in Communications and I love talking about a number of topics, including mental health, relationships, sexuality, and gaming.

Marti Wormuth, MA can be found at
blog comments powered by Disqus