Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that expresses itself through a spectrum of symptoms. A child can fall anywhere on this spectrum depending on the level of challenges they are experiencing. They may be high-functioning, or could benefit from highly specialised care.
The ASD symptoms include challenges in the following areas; (1) social interaction and verbal communication; (2) imagination, ideas, and creativity; (3) interests, routines, and repetitive behaviours; (4) gestures and non-verbal communication; and (5) sensory responses.
- Social interaction and verbal communication
These are often evident in the early developmental stages before the age of 3. Your child’s speech may be delayed, for example your child’s first single words may be spoken after 24 months of age, and first phrases may not be spoken until 33 months onwards. Your child may not follow simple commands relating to objects not in view (for example, get your book), or turn to look at you when you call their name.
There may be a limited shared enjoyment in interaction via showing or requesting toys when playing. Your child may find making and keeping friendships difficult, does not share interests or enjoyment with others, or may find social situations that most children like, such as birthday parties, not enjoyable.
- Imagination, ideas, and creativity
Your child may not have the desire to engage in imaginative pretend play, or this type of play is repetitive, overfocused, obsessive, or copied. S/he may play on their own or nearby, but not with other children.
- Gestures and non-verbal communication
Your child may not be showing a wide range of facial expressions, and/or limited or no eye contact at all. S/he may lack spontaneous gestures that express emotion, such as putting an arm around someone, or does not follow a pointing gesture to where someone is looking.
- Narrow range of interests, routines, and repetitive behaviours
Interests may include an unusual attachment to inanimate objects. Your child may be particularly interested in routines. Change can lead to anxiety or aggression, and they may insist on following their own agenda to avoid these negative feelings. Finally, s/he may display repetitive behaviours such as, hand flapping, spinning, jumping, shaking head, walking on tiptoes, or finger flicking.
- Sensory responses
A child on the Autism spectrum may be particularly sensitive to loud noises or a particular sensory stimuli such as sight, touch, taste, smell, and/ or movement.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Diagnosis
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Version 2 (ADOS-2) is a standardised diagnostic assessment for ASD. This assessment needs to be administered by a trained professional.
What are the available treatments?
Therapeutic work will focus on increasing language and communication skills, and improving attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics. The aim of treatment will also be to decrease any problem behaviours.
Is treatment necessary?
Ask yourself these questions: ‘What would you do if your child had a broken arm or a viral infection?’ Would you ignore it? Or would you take them to the hospital and get the necessary treatment? It is exactly the same with Autism. Are you going to ignore it? Or get your child assessed, and get the necessary support to ensure his/ her needs are met?
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) http://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596