Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities
What is autism?
The Autism Society defines ASD as a complex developmental disability which appears in early childhood and affects a child’s ability to communicate. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014 the prevalence of autism occurred once in every 68 births. Although children do not outgrow this disorder, much like hearing loss, early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve a child’s outcome.
So how do you know if your child has more than hearing loss?
The Autism Society lists these signs to look for:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (such as hand flapping or twirling objects)
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
If your child is exhibiting these behaviors, consult your family physician. Although there are no specific medical procedures to test for ASD, your family physician can refer you to specialists who will administer a set of autism-specific behavioral evaluations designed to diagnose the disorder.
Autism and hearing health
Because ASD affects each child differently, it’s important to understand how the disorder may impact hearing health — even among those who appear to be hearing normally.
Inner ear deficiency
Children diagnosed with ASD may have an inner ear deficiency which impairs their ability to recognize speech. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center identified this deficiency by measuring the otoacoustic emissions of children between the ages of 6 and 17. Those who had been diagnosed with ASD had difficulty hearing a specific frequency (1-2 kHZ) important for processing speech.
“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” Loisa Benneto, Ph. D. and a co-author of the study said in the July 25, 2016 online issue of Science News. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism spectrum , difficulties in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease.”
Like other auditory processing disorders, this deficiency can contribute to your child’s difficulty with learning and language. An audiologist or specialist in ASD can determine your child’s exact hearing and language deficit and suggest strategies to help them cope. These strategies may include:
- Hearing aids or other amplification devices
- Use of assistive listening devices (ALD)
- Auditory and speech training
- Musical training
- Computer-based tools
- Training with a speech pathologist
People on the autism spectrum vary enormously from each other but they all have restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities of one kind or another.
For example, they may
– have an overwhelming interest in something, such as transport systems
– stick to specific routines or rituals, such as always going to the shops the same way
– repeat the same movements, such as flapping their hands over and over again
– be hypersensitive to certain sounds, such as telephones
It is worth noting that some people on the autism spectrum like their repetitive behaviours and consider them useful ways to deal with stressful events.