Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Political Measures and Realisation in Education

Seminar Paper, 2013

13 Pages, Grade: 2,0



Introduction – The Autistic Spectrum Disorder and its Symptoms

Why Are They So Hard to Reach? – Other Possible Diagnoses

Political Interventions – Do They Help to Reach the ‘Hard-to-Reach’?

Practical Methods, “First Aid”, and Therapies

Conclusion – With a New Perspective


Introduction – The Autistic Spectrum Disorder and its Symptoms

A very personal experience led me to the assumption: “Autism can’t be that bad if I can deal with someone who has it without being trained for it.” Obviously, the mental disorder is in fact much more complicated than this which is why current research and UK policies shall be examined in the following report in order to understand why families with an autistic child may be hard to reach. Measures for support shall be looked at and assessed, and eventually a new direction presented.

Although the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) comes with a near infinite number of symptoms in highly diverse specifications, certain characteristics are commonly defined and known as the triad of impairments (NAS, IFP). Firstly, autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, i.e. decoding conventions for conducting interpersonal relationships or of behaviour in general. They lack empathy which means they apparently make no difference between an inanimate object and a human with feelings. Thus, they have much trouble making early childhood bonds with other toddlers which is by them being perceived as odd behaviour (Lubetsky, Handen & McGonigle, 2011 and Baron-Cohen, 2003). Consequently they cannot verbalise or in any expected way express their needs for e.g. food or warm clothing which then again leads to discomfort for them. Instead, autistic people of all ages can seemingly get lost for hours in studying peculiar facts or details of a particular activity.

Secondly, the social communication of autistic children is impaired in a way that they would not understand most facial and acoustic cues and/ or lose mainly due to avoiding eye-contact. Additionally, they do not react to non-/ verbal stimulation by their parents by e.g. pointing at lights or reaching out for objects. Sometimes verbal communication gets diminished or lost entirely instead of improving continuously (Lubetsky, Handen & McGonigle, 2011). Warning flags in this respect would be no babbling until 12 months or no words until 16 months. Mostly, ASD’s are also accompanied by a rather low IQ and/ or difficulties with obtaining broader knowledge (Baron-Cohen, 2003). However, this behaviour must by no means be interpreted as reaching independence at a very early age; quite the contrary: Most of them might never be able to fully take care of themselves.

Thirdly, a rigidity of thinking and difficulties with social imagination can be observed which shows itself in an inability to understand metaphorical speech or pretend games like playing house. Moreover, numerous possible co-morbidities can either overlie the named symptoms and thus confuse a diagnosis or also complicate obtaining independence in life (NAS, IFP). Difficulties with sleeping, eating, and toileting, phobias as well as motor difficulties and poor spatial awareness often cause discomfort and are being aggravated by hypo- or hypersensitivity. May that clinical picture appear as blurry as it may, fortunately, improvements in diagnosing procedures made it possible to detect more than 75 per cent already by the age of two (Lubetsky, Handen & McGonigle, 2011). Yet, it shall not be forgotten: Any form of autism can neither infect anybody suddenly nor might it ever “go away” entirely; it is a lifelong disorder one is born with (NAS, IFP).

Why Are They So Hard to Reach? – Other Possible Diagnoses

Clearly, measuring diminished social interaction is hard in itself already but even more confusion originates from related diagnoses. Most commonly this occurs with Asperger’s syndrome (AS), the other best known and rather fixed point on the autism spectrum. Simon Baron-Cohen (2003) describes the “essential difference” between the male and the female brain as based on evolution that had lead women to developing more empathised brains whereas men tend to have better systemising brain functions.

Hence, he describes the argumentation of Hans Asperger after whom the disorder had been named and who suspected an extremely developed male brain to cause the mental disorder. Like autism, the Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) genetically caused which had been proved since identical twins usually both have it, whereas non-identical are less often diagnosed with this variety of autism (Asperger, 1944). Equally, diagnosing has increased a tenfold within last thirty years due to better knowledge about the disorder (Howlin & Asgharian, 1999). However, especially younger generations with a growing dependence on online communication instead of face-to-face encounters might diminish these successes again by not at all realising their children’s lack of reactions. Usually, people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome start speaking early but tend only to talk in order to verbalise their needs or to solve a kind of problem. Chatting for its own sake, on the contrary, seems to be of no use to them, they do not understand the purpose in it or feel any responsibility for the emotions of their peers (Baron-Cohen, 2003). Instead talking to teachers or reading factual books might be of more interest for them. If they do engage in any group playing they tend to display a bossy or inappropriate behaviour which stems from their perception of others as mere objects they want to fit into the system they already figured out in their heads. Therefore closed systems like computers, building toys, or juggling are preferred activities because they represent more controllable, predictable environments. AS diagnosed people are sometimes intensely “governed by ‘to-do’ lists” and dislike spontaneity mainly in combination with social encounters – actually rather common habits in Western societies recently which make late diagnoses particularly hard (Baron-Cohen, 2003). Simon Baron-Cohen, however, reveals the difference: “Another man with AS put it succinctly [and explained] what he would do if he saw someone else was a bit tearful: he said he had learned to say: “Would you like some tea?’, and sound helpful but the truth of it was that he did not feel any emotion” (Baron-Cohen, 2003, 143).

Yet another variety on the autism spectrum is called the Savant Syndrome. This type of autism comes with most incredible special talents, so –called “islets of knowledge” (Baron-Cohen, 2003, 134). Several examples such as extreme multilinguism, extraordinary mathematical skills or musical memory are being reported by Beate Hermelin (2001). While obviously these genius skills are strengths that can be worked on in order to help the affected people find their place in life, their intelligence also helps them sometimes too well to cover up their impairments in other parts of life.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Political Measures and Realisation in Education
University of Warwick  (Institute of Education)
Working with Children in a Diverse Society
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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autistic, spectrum, disorder, political, measures, realisation, education
Quote paper
Cordula Zwanzig (Author), 2013, Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Political Measures and Realisation in Education, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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