Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
The term "spectrum" reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
Autism's most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.
Some people are able to know that they are autistic while a majority, especially children, are usually confused about what they are experiencing.
This is mainly because more often than not, what they experience is invariably judged as being "abnormal" by their parents and society (largely due to ignorance of the condition), while it feels "natural" to them. This results in confusion, and therefore, they may not be aware that they are indeed autistic.
Most people on the spectrum learn overtime that they are different because of difficulties with social interaction, difference in intensity of focus and memory, literal thinking, sensory issues and executive function problems.
Often children are diagnosed and told this is the term for their differences. The undiagnosed older person may one day read about, or see a depiction of autism meet another autistic, or have a diagnosed child. They see that it fits and either self-identify or seek an official diagnosis.
On the one hand, people who are autistic might never get diagnosed and carry on with life and never know. On another, they may not be able to understand what autism is, due to age or the incapacity to understand things (if they have a condition that lowers their mental age/capacity). On yet another hand, you have those who know they're autistic, either because they got diagnosed and were given information on it, or they worked it out for themselves.
So ultimately, multiple categories of people with autism:
People who are on the spectrum, but don't know due to never being diagnosed
People on the spectrum who are too young to understand what it means
People on the spectrum who will never know that they're on it because they lack the capacity to understand
People on the spectrum who know they are due to diagnosis and such
People on the spectrum who self-diagnosed and came to the conclusion that they are based on the evidence. They could also use that evidence to secure a formal diagnosis or never get diagnosed at all.
There are possibly other categories of people as well, but I'm sticking with the above 5 to keep things short. Ultimately though, some will never know they're autistic, due to being too young to understand, not being interested in a diagnosis, or otherwise never being able to grasp it... whereas others know because of a formal diagnosis or deduction.
How to encourage and raise them to lead a successful life?
Encourage play and social interaction
Children learn through play, and that includes learning language. Interactive play provides enjoyable opportunities for you and your child to communicate. Try a variety of games to find those your child enjoys. Also try playful activities that promote social interaction. Examples include singing, reciting nursery rhymes and gentle roughhousing. During your interactions, position yourself in front of your child and close to eye level – so it’s easier for your child to see and hear you.
Imitate your child
Mimicking your child’s sounds and play behaviours will encourage more vocalizing and interaction. It also encourages your child to copy you and take turns. Make sure you imitate how your child is playing – so long as it’s a positive behaviour. For example, when your child rolls a car, you roll a car. If he or she crashes the car, you crash yours too. But don’t imitate throwing the car.
Focus on nonverbal communication:
Gestures and eye contact can build a foundation for language. Encourage your child by modelling and responding these behaviours. Exaggerate your gestures. Use both your body and your voice when communicating - for example, by extending your hand to point when you say “look” and nodding your head when you say"yes” Use gestures that are easy for your child to imitate. Examples include clapping, opening hands, reaching out arms, etc. Respond to your child's gestures: When she looks at or points to a toy, hand it to her or take the cue for you to play with it. Similarly, point to a toy you want before picking it up.
Leave "space" for your child to talk:
It's natural to feel the urge to fill in language when a child doesn't immediately respond. But it's so important to give your child lots of opportunities to communicate, even if he isn't talking. When you ask a question or see that your child wants something, pause for several seconds while looking at him expectantly. Watch for any sound or body movement and respond promptly. The promptness of your response helps your child feel the power of communication.
Simplify your language:
Doing so helps your child follow what you are saying. It also makes it easier for her to imitate your speech. If your child is nonverbal, try speaking mostly in single words. (If she is playing with a ball, you say "ball" or "roll”) If your child is speaking single words, up the ante. Speak in short phrases, such as “roll ball” or “throw ball.” Keep following this "one-up" rule: Generally, use phrases with one more word than your child is using.
Follow your child's interests:
Rather than interrupting your child's focus, follow along with words. Using the one-up rule, narrate what your child is doing. If he is playing with a shape sorter, you might say the word “in” when he puts a shape in its slot. You might say "shape" when he holds up the shape and "dump shapes" when he dumps them out to start over. By talking about what engages your child, you will help him learn the associated vocabulary.
Consider assistive devices and visual supports:
Assistive technologies and visual supports can do more than take the place of speech. They can foster its development. Examples include devices and apps with pictures that your child touches to produce words. On a simpler level, visual supports can include pictures and groups of pictures that your child can use to indicate requests and thoughts.