Editors Note: For a real example of the damage that can be done through confusing symptoms see another article we published here


ABU DHABI // Autism, intellectual difficulty and learning disability are completely different disorders, although symptoms may overlap at times.

Saleh Shaalan, director of speech and language services at New England Centre for Children in Abu Dhabi, said that the major difference between a learning difficulty and autism is that all children who have autism have major difficulties with social interaction.

Even those with good vocabulary or language skills face difficulties socially, he said.

Children with a learning disability or language impairment usually manage to compensate for the deficit in language by using non-verbal means of communication. A two-year-old with a language impairment but not autism would use signs, pointing, or body language to express himself. These are very difficult for an autistic child.

Autistic children also have problems in reading facial expressions.

Dr Kusay Hadi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Camali Clinic said that a child with a learning difficulty could have a normal IQ, but struggle with certain subjects, such as reading or maths.

On the other hand, “most children who have autism have low IQ characterised by delay in language [development] or communication, repetitive movements, aggression, frustration, poor eye contact”, he said.

They also tend to suffer from anxiety and “can’t adapt to change in their routine”.

“A child who has autism can’t make friends easily and they play in isolation,” Dr Hadi said.

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