The syndrome of autism can best be described as a life long developmental disability that is the result of a dysfunction in the central nervous system.
People with autism fail to develop normal behaviours and interactive social relationships with others. As a result, this presents them with difficulties in learning. For example, autistic people are often described as "living in a world of their own". This makes it difficult for them to learn in the same way that others do. In addition, communication is a large factor that accounts for the challenges in learning. Communication impairment affects both verbal and non-verbal skills. Approximately forty to fifty percent of autistic people never develop functional use of their language. However, when speech does develop it is greatly different from that of a child with normal speech. Many people who have autism use sign language as an alternate form of communication. The word, "Echolalia", is used to the parrot like way that autistic people say or sign. They repeat what they hear or see and for the most part this information is typically non-communicative. Almost eighty percent of the autistic population is classified as being mentally retarded. Autistic individuals often display erratic emotional responses to the world around them. They could either show little variation in their emotions, or they could bounce around from happiness, to fear, or sadness and then back to happy again. Because of their unpredictable emotions, it is hard to place autistic people in a normal classroom setting.
Technologically, there have not been very many advances that have helped autistic people. However, the most successful methods of education for them is to teach adaptive bahaviours. A child's strengths and weaknesses will be identified and used as a basis for establishing goals.