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Autism Spectrum Disorder Review

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Numerous researches are currently being carried out on the causality of the condition called Autism Spectrum Disorder and there are conflicting information on the educational and therapeutic measures required. The general concept of autism has generated many controversies and ideological conflicts. In the nineteenth century there was little concern in this direction, moreover, children with such mental disorders were considered idiots, psychotic, if not under the control of a demon, and sick children were either thrown out, abandoned or closed.

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In the 1900s the psychiatrist Maria Montessori revolutionized the medical world with her suggestions, especially when she fought for the legal right of deaf children to live and go to school. It gave birth to an elementary educational pedagogical method for children with mental and social difficulties, called the Montessori Method. Later, cognitivists recognize the existence of perceptual disturbances and present disruptions in understanding and communication capacity linked to autism, but they do not consider schooling and living in families important, since recovery from autism is inexistent in their opinion. In the 1980s it is discovered a link between autistic behavior and social abilities, with stereotypes that are visible until 30 months of age.

1996 is the year that regulates autism as a handicap and the European Parliament requires an adjusting of regulations worldwide, in order for people with autism to have access to education and proper treatment, as well as free from any kind of abuse. It is also acknowledged the Asperger syndrome, as part of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder linked to a highly specialized field of interest. Educational interventions in autism are particularly complex, with the main aim of the curriculum being to gain the independence of children. The essential objectives of educational programs are to facilitate social development, facilitating the development of language and communication, diminishing undesirable behaviors as well as developing the necessary skills for the independent functioning of the autistic child and family support. The best known methods of educational intervention for people in the Autistic Spectrum Disorder are: ABBA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), PECS (Pictures Exchange Communication System), TEACCH, Hannen Program, Social Stories Program, Sun-rise Program, Sensory Integration Therapy, Floor Time Program, Little Steps Program, as well as complementary therapies such as melotherapy, art therapy, ludotherapy, animal therapy, occupational therapy, language therapy and communication, dance therapy as being very useful in acquiring the independence of an autistic child. Art therapy assimilates the main elements of plastic language that help the child to express himself, sometimes faster and easier than verbal communication. By means of plastic and graphic representations, the child projects some of his experiences, feelings and attitudes, often unconscious, all of which constitute information useful for understanding some aspects of his conduct, and also a relaxing effect, following the execution of a drawing or modeling product. Through this method, the personality of the child is complete, the aesthetic sense develops and the need for beauty is realized in his life and activity.

Melotherapy is particularly interesting because of the effect of music used in various forms as a means of shaping personality and normalizing the mental states of children. The use of musical instruments or songs, which obviously express feelings, shows empathy and the desire to establish report with the teenager. Through music and movement (dance therapy), focus on interaction measure the ability of the child and his / her gaming partner to organize and present ideas in different ways. Knowing the song or the dance gives them a framework for spontaneous reactions and therefore the possibility of inventing new ways of responding. Because the actions of each child are appreciated, it is an experience that involves affective support, experience that takes place in a creative and social context. It has long been proven that there is a direct connection between melotherapy and language development, from correcting pronunciation to enlarging vocabulary and spelling (Popovici 2005: 143). Aromatherapy uses plant essences to stimulate relaxation and help alleviate the symptoms of certain afflictions. Essential oils are highly concentrated flavor extracts, cold pressed or obtained by steam distillation from flowers, leaves or roots. Aromatherapists believe that the scent of oils has a calming effect on the limbic system of the brain, which is involved in memory, emotions and hormonal control. Some practitioners have also launched the theory that oils are absorbed through the skin and act directly inside the body, while combined with massage eases people with autism.

Hippotherapy or horse therapy had spectacular results to children with autism and ADHD. It is a method of therapy by which children learn about themselves and others by interacting with the world. It does not just focus on teaching riding techniques or horse care, and children do not need a previous experience. It has been clinically proven that the mere fact of sitting near the horses changes patterns of brain waves. Horses have a calming effect that prevents a prolonged setting of negative events, offering a truly positive experience.

In teaching students with disabilities puppets can also be used to support non-verbal and verbal communication, as they naturally attract attention and offer the opportunity of creative expression, facilitating cooperation. Characters and animals can be useful symbols for thought and action, giving children a means to differentiate the reality of fiction. Through play the child reaches his first burst of autonomy and practice of work skills that will later be so vital; playing is both dreaming and working (Voicu 2002: 91).

Tales are simple, short narratives that help the child learn different aspects of language or social skills, within a particular context or within a particular activity. The effectiveness of social stories depends on the ability of the writer to take the perspective of the person with autism. In addition for stories to work, the child must master language, so it is unlikely to do much good with nonverbal autistic children in acquiring English language knowledge. But for verbal students with or without disabilities it becomes a powerful teaching aid, a social act in which common meanings can be expressed through language and action. Stories stimulated by the experience of students, become an essential component of the development process through which they learn more about themselves and about the environment. Stories can be accompanied by illustrations, photos or music.

The sand game has been used in the therapeutic context with autistic children since it has been observed that sand handling and the use of small objects provide an important means of non-verbal expression and gives the individual the opportunity to understand his behavioral feelings and actions. Using sand, which is pleasing to many, is the first important factor, followed by the way objects are chosen to create a pleasant experience. It is important to distinguish between playing in the sandbox, with a bucket and a sprinkler and offering an individual tray with some small objects to put on the child. When a child uses the sand tray, the presence of the game partner is a support, and it has enough time and space to creatively excrete the aspects of the self. As sand and water are tactile, familiar materials, clay and plasticine play is the desire to spontaneously explore the qualities of natural elements. They can be pressed, rotated, tightened in their hand and immediately change their shape according to their will or skill. Through sensory experience, children can then find freedom to create patterns and shapes and make representations of familiar characters and objects. Playing clay and plasticine can be a soothing experience for some of them, because they can create and re-create forms that make sense to them, and from then they can acquire vocabulary for concrete words. However, in the context of so many children in a classroom, and in a traditional setting, it is difficult to perform.

Dolphin therapy has gained an interest throughout the world because it has analgesic effects, reducing depression, improving the learning abilities of children suffering from autism, Down syndrome, severe hearing-impairment or spinal cord problems. All because of changes in the brain, in terms of improving the synchronization of the two hemispheres.

No matter the diagnosis, it is vital for each person to find a proper way of communication. Emil Verza in the article Dinamism și evoluție în comunicarea umană in the magazine Revista de psihopedagogie in 2004 regulated kinesthetic communication and tactile communication alongside verbal and nonvenal communication types of human interaction. (2004: 93-100). Any kind of communication is important, for it is the way each individual expresses themselves, their needs and can make progress.

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