Autism: Definition, Characteristics, Criteria, Classification, Causes, Treatment, etc

Autism: Definition, Characteristics, Criteria, Classification, Causes, Treatment, etc



Definition of Autism

Autism is a disorder of the development of communication, imagination activity, and complex social interactions (Ministry of National Education in Asrori, 2020, p. 97). Often people think that autism is the same as mentally retarded or mentally retarded. Even though someone with autism disorder actually has average intelligence and often even has the opportunity to have an IQ above the average (Iswari in Asrori, 2020, p. 97). Autistic children also do not experience organic disorders (physical organs) in the central nervous system (brain) as in mentally retarded children.



Autism is not a symptom of a disease, but rather deviations in social development, language skills and concern for those around them, so that children with autism seem to live in their own world (Orphans in Marlina, 2015, p. 25). Simply put, someone with autistic disorder is actually the same as other individuals, it’s just that they are reluctant, have difficulty, feel very disturbed so that they experience negative affection such as anger to socialize.


Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, namely a severe disorder in the area of ​​development characterized by qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interaction, language development and behavior, manifested at an early age, namely at the age of 3 years and generally affects other areas of development.



Meanwhile, according to Sutadi (in Marlina, 2015, p. 25) autism is a severe developmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people. Thus, people with autism experience disturbances in social interactions such as verbal and nonverbal communication, do not understand body movements, their facial expressions and voices tend to be flat (Marlina, 2015, p. 25).



According to Monk (in Asrori, 2020, p. 97) autism comes from the word “autos” which means “I”. Etymologically it can be interpreted that all children who are only able to direct themselves are called autistic. Giving the term autism originates from the belief in “excessive preoccupation” that occurs within itself. That way, autism can also be interpreted as individuals who prefer to be alone or have happiness with their own world without caring about other people.


Autistic Traits

At birth, children with autism look the same as other children until the age of 24-30 months. Only after that, parents can find out the delays that exist in their children from delays in speaking and oddities in interacting children who are not the same as their peers. For more details, according to Pratiwi (2017, p. 53) the characteristics of autism are as follows.



Children’s ability to speak generally will experience delays in speaking. Even though the child has spoken, they cannot speak properly.


Children with autism cannot interact well with their peers, they prefer to be alone and are absorbed in their world and ignore their surroundings.


Children with autism are very sensitive in terms of smell, taste, hearing, and light.


Children with autism can’t imagine playing so sometimes they can’t play the game properly.


Children with autism vary, some of them are very active and some are even quiet. Sometimes children also suddenly get angry for no reason. Sometimes they really pay attention to an object that is very liked. Autism is also very aggressive to himself even to other people. They are also very routine in doing things they are used to doing and it is very difficult to change habits, and repetitive interests or behaviors.

Autistic Classification

People with autism can be classified based on several behaviors such as based on their social interactions, appearance of abnormalities and so on. The following is an explanation of the classification of autism.


Classification Based on Social Interaction

Based on their social interactions, people with autism can be divided into three types, namely:


Alone Group

With the following characteristics: a) Staying away from people around him; b) Not much to say difficult to communicate with. So that there is only a little development in children; c) They are often preoccupied with their own world, when they do something they must always repeat it; d) When they are emotional, they sometimes injure themselves, hurt their peers, sometimes destroy things around them, including playing with themselves.

Passive Group

With the following characteristics: a) can make eye contact, can play with peers, but will not look for his own friends; b) In terms of speaking it can be said to be good even though it is still somewhat inaccurate but better than their peers; c) They are quicker in stringing words together even though sometimes there are still some words they don’t understand; d) In this group children can still be trained and taught compared to children who still like to be alone.

Active But Weird Group

With the following characteristics: a) This group differs greatly from children who like to be alone or can be said to be the opposite, because in this group children speak faster; b) Even though you can speak fluently, you still don’t understand words; c) Already able to speak but are less familiar with their peers or don’t talk much; d) Often repeats the words spoken; e) Not having complete trust in their peers (Nurfadillah, 2021, p. 236).

Classification Based on the Appearance of Abnormalities

Based on the appearance of the disorder, people with autism can be divided into:


infantile Autism,

This term is used to refer to children who already have abnormalities from birth.

fixation Autism,

this term is used to refer to children who have abnormalities after they are two or three years old, who have not had abnormalities since birth (Nurfadillah, 2021, p. 236).

Characteristics of Autism

The characteristics possessed by each autistic child are very different, it can even be said that nothing looks specific. However, in general, the characteristics of autistic children are divided into three parts, namely as follows.


Communication Skills

Not a few people understand the speech spoken by autistic children, they like to parrot and imitate what other people say, even speaking is not to communicate but to talk to themselves. Symptoms that are often experienced by children with autism are: having a delay in their language, very happy to imitate, having difficulty speaking, pretending to be deaf, sometimes speaking but unable to communicate even though there are people around them. From these symptoms it can be interpreted that children with autism experience problems in communicating both verbally and non-verbally.

Behavioral Disorders

Autistic children tend to prefer to be alone or they are more preoccupied with their own world, even though there are many people around them, they even ignore it when someone asks them to talk. The behavior that is often shown is that they often parrot, sometimes attracted by other people’s hands when they want something, indifferent to their environment. They also sometimes throw tantrums when they don’t understand what they want, sometimes negative behavior appears for no reason. This behavior arises because the child cannot communicate properly. Often also when children are interacting socially they are not focused or eye contact is difficult to get, causing interactions that are not good

Social Interaction Disorder

The occurrence of social interaction disorders in autistic children is mostly those who cannot focus on eye contact, even when called to ignore, they prefer to be alone, engrossed in their world, sometimes away when approached. Then when children want something they often tug on the hands of those around them to fulfill or do what they want (Dewi et al, 2018, pp. 290-292).

In addition to the characteristics above, autistic children also have the characteristics of emotional disorders such as crying or laughing alone. Autistic children also have excessive fear disorder (Irda Murni, 2018, p. 94).


Autistic Criteria

According to Handojo (in Asrori, 2020, pp. 97-98) some of the characteristics of autism behavior in children include the following.


Language/communication includes flat facial expressions, little or no speaking, rarely initiates communication, does not use body language or gestures, does not imitate actions or sounds, does not seem to understand the meaning of words, understands and uses words in a limited way, intonation or vocal rhythm weird.

Relationships with people include being unresponsive, no social smile, not communicating with eyes, limited eye contact, looking preoccupied when left alone, not taking turns playing, using adult hands as tools.

Relationship with the environment includes playing repetitively, getting angry or not wanting change, developing rigid routines, showing interest that is very inflexible.

Sensory responses include sometimes panicking at certain sounds, being very sensitive to sound, playing with light and reflections, playing with fingers in front of eyes, pulling away when touched, attracted to certain patterns and textures, very active. or hyperactive, often seen twirling, head banging, wrist biting, jumping or flapping hands, responding oddly to pain.

Gaps in the development of behaviors include ability may be very good or very late, learning skills out of normal order, for example reading but not understanding meaning, drawing in detail but unable to button a shirt, good at doing puzzles, but very difficult to follow instructions, walking at the age of normal, but doesn’t communicate, parrot sounds fluent, but has trouble speaking for himself, can do something at times, but not at other times.

The more detailed and most frequently used provisions are those defined by the WHO World Health Organization contained in ICD-10 International Classification of Diseases 10th edition and The DSM-IV Diagnostic statistical manual, 4th edition developed by the APA American Psychiatric Association. The criteria in ICD-10 are as follows.


Kel No Symptoms Total Remarks

1 A Inadequate social interaction At least 2 symptoms

Eye contact is very lacking

Eye expression less lively

Less purposeful movements

Refusing to be hugged

Don’t look when called

Crying and laughing for no reason

Not interested in toys

Play with objects that are not toys

B Does not play with peers

C Unable to feel what others are feeling

D Lack of reciprocal social and emotional connection

2 A Speech is delayed or not developed at all, sign language is not developed. At least 1 symptom

B When speaking, speaking is not used to communicate

C Often uses strange and repetitive language

D The way to play is less varied, less imaginative and less able to imitate

3 A Maintains one or more interests in a distinctive and excessive manner. At least 1 symptom

B Fixed in one ritualistic activity and the routine used, for example eating and kissing first

C There are odd, repetitive movements

D Often extremely fascinated by parts of things


Source: WHO in Asrori (2020, p. 99).


Causes of Autism

According to Nakita (in Dewi et al, 2018, p. 290) autistic disorder can be caused by four factors, which are as follows.


The first factor is the genetic factor (heredity).

Prenatal factors, namely factors where when the mother is pregnant can be infected by the TORCH virus.

Neonatal factors, namely the process when the mother gave birth and then experienced a problem.

Postnatal factors, where these factors occur in the child’s environment after birth.

Autism Treatment

It has been explained previously that autism is actually not a disease but a disorder or social disorder. To be able to help reduce bad behavior in children who can help, namely an autistic companion teacher and a therapist. The earlier a child is treated, the better the results will be. Each child has different assistance, one of which is that children need special attention and education according to the child’s condition.


The service model for autistic children is divided into two parts, as follows.


Early education services, namely intervention therapy programs and supporting therapy programs.

Further education services include transition classes, inclusive education programs, integrated education programs, and special schools.

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