Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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1.4 Parents’ reflections on their children’s behaviour

In the following activity, video clips will show parents' observations of their children's behaviour.

Activity 1 What parents noticed

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Watch the following video clips from The Autism Puzzle (2003), in which parents and family members, some whose children were diagnosed in the 1960s, and others from recent years, talk about their children’s behaviour in the first few years. List some key behavioural features mentioned for each child.

Michael Baron on his son Timothy

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Saskia Baron on Timothy

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Lorna Wing on her daughter Susan

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Hannelore Braunsberg on her son David

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Charlotte Moore on her son George

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Acis Peters and his mother Samantha

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Harry Peters and his mother Samantha

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Discussion

Key behaviours and problems noted by parents include:

  • Timothy Baron: initial pre-speech sounds disappeared; odd way of looking at mother.

  • Susan Wing: socially remote; did not look straight at people or pay attention to them; screamed, was ‘difficult’ and did not sleep; repetitive behaviours.

  • David Braunsberg: no communication; rejected solid foods; active and ‘difficult’; still in nappies at 4.

  • George Moore: initially seemed bright, advanced and attentive to everything; was early to smile, speak, stand and walk; liked stories, had excellent memory for words and phrases; language use quaint or unusual; sleep problems.

  • Acis: language developed late; would not look at his Mum or point; appeared indifferent to sounds including others talking to him.

  • Harry: obsession with wearing the same pyjamas; wouldn’t tolerate anything different.

As this activity shows, there are both similarities and differences in what parents notice. For some parents sleep problems, inflexibility or just ‘difficult behaviour’ stood out, while for others, it was differences in attention, looking or language. Two parents, Michael and Charlotte, thought that their child had regressed. Notice that despite his earlier language delay, 8 year old Acis is a very verbal child.

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