Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex developmental condition that appears very early in a child's life, generally before the age of three. The condition involves persistent challenges in the areas of social interaction, speech, non verbal communication and restricted/repetitive behaviours. The term 'spectrum' refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of disability in day to day functioning that occur in people with ASD.
What are some common signs of ASD?
- Communication difficulties and social impairment
- Repetitive and characteristic behaviours
- Developmental delays, learning diabilities
- Speech delays
- Causing self injury
- Extreme temper tantrums
- Unusual sleeping and eating habits
- Unusual mood or emotional reactions
How is ASD diagnosed?
A diagnosis is made by a qualified specialist, such as a paediatrician or via a comprehensive assessment performed by a team of specialists that may include a paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist and a speech pathologist.
How is ASD managed?
In Australia, if your child is diagnosed with autism, there are education programs and support services available for the child and their family.
It is recommended that treatments used to manage ASD are started as early as possible. Specific symptoms and social skills can be improved with the right support and programs and the best results are obtained through a treatment program specifically designed to individual needs.
Intensive educational programs and behavioural therapies teach language and social skills and speech pathology focuses on developing communication skills. Occupational therapists can assist with sensory motor development, such as learning play and fine motor skills as well as coping mechanisms for social situations.
Misconceptions about ASD
There are many misconceptions that make it harder for people with austism to have their conditions recognised and receive the support they need.
Dispelling common misconceptions:
- Autism is NOT caused by vaccination.
- Autism is NOT caused by eating certain foods.
- People with autism DO like to socialise and make friends — they just find this difficult.
- People with autism DO have emotions — they just might display them differently.
- Most people with autism ARE able to learn, even if they may progress more slowly than some others.
- It IS possible for people with autism to change their behaviour.
- Autism is NOT caused by bad parenting.
- Not all people with autism have savant skills, like Rain Man.
- Not all people with autism have an intellectual disability.
- Autism is NOT a mental illness, though people with autism have higher rates of mental illness such as depression and anxiety.
To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can visit the following websites or speak to your doctor or paediatrician:
To become a care or support worker, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/carer
To find aged care services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/aged-care-workers
To find disability support services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/disability-support-workers