Do you think that Autism severity can change during early childhood development?

In order for us to answer this – I think we need to start by looking at Early Childhood Development as a whole.  It is a time when all children grow and develop substantially.  It is a critical time of development for any child.  Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning.  It impacts that child’s behavior and plays a big part in the general health of the child.

Interest and curiosity are the motivators that create new connections to acquire new skills and each new skill builds on a skill that the child has already learnt.  BUT what happens when the child’s brain works differently to that of a normal developing child?  Which is the case in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Let’s start by looking at how the autistic child learns:

  • The autistic child learns new skills differently and at a different pace to his/her peers. Some skills may be learnt faster than that of its peers and other skills may take years to develop.
  • The autistic toddler may develop skills in a different order from typically developing children.
  • Interaction with people can be very challenging and an autistic child may interact with people in a very different way.
  • An autistic child’s restrictive behavior patterns can at times hinder them from exploratory learning.
  • Joint attention, the ability to make and use eye contact and gestures to share experience with other can be very problematic for the autistic toddler and these difficulties can make it harder for the autistic child to develop language skills.
  • Language development happens at a pace that is different to typically developing children which means they might not always understand what you say to them, or they might have difficulty following simple instructions.

So, in a nutshell the only real difference is the way the autistic child learns, not his/her ability to learn!  

Just like any other child an autistic child will benefit and grow during the early childhood years.  The severity of a child’s autism can therefore change during this time.  It is important to note that the best results are gained when the child is placed in an environment of understanding.  One that has been adapted specifically to accommodate the unique learning style or your child.

The only thing standing in the way of the autistic child’s learning is when the child is placed in the wrong environment.  When a child is placed in a school that caters for typically developing children and the teacher does not adapt his/her methods to accommodate the autistic child then learning will not be achieved and the child may even regress from a behavior perspective.

It is not about the child’s ability to learn…  It is about the teacher’s ability to adapt their curriculum to accommodate the autistic child’s ability to learn.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.