Autism Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

You might know someone with autism, but what does that mean, exactly? Find out how this condition affects language, social skills, and other aspects of every day life for those who have it.

What is Autism?

Autism is a condition that makes it difficult to use and understand language, and also makes it harder to connect with people. It is a developmental disorder, meaning it affects the way the brain develops. It can be mild, severe, or anything in between. People with autism have a lot of behaviors and needs in common, but no two people are exactly alike.

Communication

Communication problems are a main sign of autism. A person with autism may struggle to speak, or to understand speech. This makes it hard to join conversations or follow directions. Autistic people don't always understand facial expressions, like smiles and frowns. Looking people in the eye can be really uncomfortable for people with autism.

Social Skills

It is hard for some people with autism to work in groups.
school group

People with autism struggle to act appropriately with others. Being in a large group is especially hard. Playgrounds and parties can be overwhelming and scary for kids with autism. Some adults who have autism struggle with parties and activities, too. It's hard for them to do certain jobs because they have to spend so much time cooperating with other people.

It's pretty common for someone with autism to have limited interests, meaning they may have only one or two topics they really care about. The topic could be anything - like a certain movie, or cars, or animals. This can make it hard for the person to hold a conversation, but it might also make them experts on the topic! Their favorite interests might eventually help them join a club or even turn into a career.

Dr. Temple Grandin is a famous scientist with autism. She turned her interest in animals into a great career.
Temple Grandin

Daily Life With Autism

Quite often, those with autism feel the most comfortable with a set routine. If you know someone with autism, or have autism yourself, then you know that unexpected changes can be very upsetting. Having a set schedule is very helpful, but if changes have to happen, it's important to let the person know ahead of time.

People with autism can have problems with any of the senses, including vision, hearing, and touch. This doesn't mean that they can't see, hear, or feel. It means that they see, hear, or feel things differently, and sometimes more intensely. Hearing a fire alarm or feeling a clothing tag on their skin might actually be painful experiences, and some food textures feel awful. Certain types of lighting can be very annoying and uncomfortable, too.

You might see an autistic person doing the same activity or movement over and over. He might rock back and forth, spin, or flap his hands. He may also repeat the same words or phrases many times. These behaviors help the person feel calm.

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