Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

It is important to recognise that Autism has a range (or “spectrum”) of symptoms. Every child has a unique pattern of behaviour and will exhibit symptoms with different levels of severity.

Noun:
a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
There is no single known cause for Autism, however recent research has identified strong genetic links, including your child’s sex (more common in boys) and family history of ASD.
It is also not uncommon for children with Autism to also be challenged by other conditions, such as:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Dyspraxia.
Inherent learning disabilities
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Cerebral palsy
Muscular dystrophy
Tourette’s syndrome

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism begins at a very early stage of a child’s life.
Some children with Autism demonstrate symptoms within their first few months after birth, whilst others might only demonstrate concerning behaviours after a couple of years.
Some children with Autism seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

The three common categories of symptoms faced by children with Autism include:

Impairment in social interaction
Limited use and understanding of non-verbal communication, such as, facial expressions and gestures
Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
Not responding to their name by 12 months
Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months (for example, airplanes)
Not playing “pretend” games by 18 months (e.g. feeding a doll)
Difficulties forming and sustaining friendships
Lack of seeking to share enjoyment, interests or activities with other children or adults
Difficulties with social and emotional responsiveness

Impairment in communication
Delayed speech and language skills
Difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations
Stereotyped and repetitive use of language such as repeating phrases from television (i.e. Echolalia)
Give unrelated answers to questions
Limited imaginative or make-believe play
Restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours
Unusually intense or focused interests
Stereotyped and repetitive body movements such as hand flapping and spinning
Repetitive use of objects in a non-functional way (e.g. lining up toys)
Adherence to non-functional routines such as insisting on travelling the same route each day (e.g. to and from school)

Individuals with Autism may also demonstrate
Unusual sensory interests, such as, sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
Sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
Flap their hands, rock their body or spin in circles
Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties

Each child or adult with autism is unique and, so, each autism intervention plan should be tailored to address specific needs. Intervention can involve behavioural treatments, medicines or both. Many persons with autism have additional medical conditions such as:
sleep disturbance.
Seizures.
gastrointestinal (GI).

Addressing these conditions can improve attention, learning and related behaviours.

Early intensive behavioural intervention involves a child’s entire family, working closely with a team of professionals. This can include parent training with the parent leading therapy sessions under the supervision of the therapist. Other programmes deliver therapy in a specialised centre, classroom or preschool.

© 2017, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.

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