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From ages three to five, a child's overall vocabulary increases at an extraordinarily fast pace. Communication during this stage occurs through both cognitive learn as well as through understanding the nuances of social etiquette and cultural norms. There are many different types of learning mechanisms associated with communications. Understanding nonverbal communication usually occurs at a subconscious level in the early days of birth, but extends to increasingly complexity until the ages of four or five when they should have considerably mastered a cognitive approach to both verbal and nonverbal communication.
For children with autism, the communication development process is very different. Since one of the key communication mechanisms at the infant stage is nonverbal, the development of voice recognition, crying, and other methods of nonverbal communications are important. Autistic children in contrast do not show special interest in their surroundings, especially in faces. Thus, at an infant level they already are not developing the most basic methods of communication and everyday human interaction. In the first months of development, autistic children are different in that they do not make eye contact with adults, or interact with others in the same manner as normal children. At the language development stage is when autism because very obvious. Between eighteen months to two years, language and social skills are no longer evident among autistic children. Autistic children, though attached to parents show much less reciprocasity in terms of emotions and feeling. Thus, when autistic children continue to develop they struggle to master the basics of language communication. They are most notable in their inability to master the simplistic nuances of nonverbal communication. Because they lack basic human observation and cognitive social senses, they are unable to respond to the majority of emotions and cultural edifices. By the age of five, autistic children will experience severe social alienation because they are unable to respond or interact with other children.
Significant barriers are created for children of autism. There are personal barriers associated with the lack of expressed emotions. This affects the relationship between the autistic child and their family, which uses communication as a method of showing affection and engender closeness. Barriers are created on a social level for several reasons. First autistic children are unable to communicate affectively with peers, which means that they suffer from severe social alienation from their peers. Another major problem is that their inability to understand and appreciate nonverbal communication means that they are not able to integrate effectively into the culture and social situations that they are placed. This causes social barriers between both peers and adults, who are not used to the lack of basic social conventions.
These social barriers have a significant affect on the life of the autistic child, which experiences severe ostracism from both his close social circle of family, as well as the broader social community of school and society. Autistic children are often reported to have imaginary friends and worlds which are constructed because they lack real personal connections with the world. Making friends in the real world and maintaining such friendships often is too difficult a task for autistic children. As a result of all of these problems, many autistic children develop behavioral liabilities that will result in many different outlets that include self mutilation
Many different techniques have been developed to help those with autism to adjust to normal life. However, none of these devices have shown to be extremely affective in all cases. There are no known cures for autism primarily because researchers have yet to learn how autism develops within children. Social programs and grass roots initiative against discrimination have been launched in the past decade that have dramatically increased our appreciation for autism. This has allowed children with autism to lead a much more normal life without the stigma of social ostracism that they are traditionally labeled with. Additionally, educational facilities equipped to teach autistic children have become a mandatory part of the American educational system. As a result, children have much more access to the techniques and educational tools to help them adapt and persevere against their disorder. There is still much that society can do to promote autism awareness and increase social activism on its behalf. However, such policies are hard to dictate primarily because medical understanding of autism is still very shallow. Both more resources as well as research effort must be dedicated to understanding autism and how to develop a permanent cure.
American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC, 1994) www.nichd.nih.govAutism Overview: What We Know National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved 26 January, 2007
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