What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
This is an umbrella term used for various brain development disorders, including Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, & not otherwise specified (PPD-NOS). No two people under the term ASD are the same, even though they may have similar characteristics.
What causes Autism?
It has been proven and we now know that Autism happens from differences in brain development. The causes however are unknown, although there is evidence that complex genetic factors play a part in some forms of autism but there is no single cause. Research continues, with the aim of finding the cause and discovering more treatment options & maybe even a cure..
Can Autism be Cured?
No, Autism cannot be cured. It is a lifelong condition, which has symptoms that can be managed and treated over time. Unless there is a specific medical condition causing the autism ‘like’ symptoms, cure is not in the term we should be using.
What are the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Symptoms or behaviours of ASD’s can range from mild to severe and many in between. Some children are said to show signs from early infancy. In my own experience, I knew from birth, there were delays.
Some signs are reduced eye contact, lack of response to name, or emotional indifference to caretaker.
Some children may develop normally for the first few months or years, then suddenly show signs of becoming withdrawn or slow, even aggressive. Sometimes falling behind with language skills. Signs are normally seen by the age of 2 years old.
Some children with ASD have difficulty learning, and some grow at a slower steady pace, or show signs of lower than normal intelligence. Some seem to learn quickly, however have trouble communicating and applying what they know.
People on the spectrum have difficulties in two main areas:
- Social Communication and Interaction
- Restricted or repetitive behaviours, interests and activities. Sensory issues should be under this umbrella.
Delayed language inhibits all of these already difficult daily activities.
What are the Characteristics of ASD?
This is a hard one, as there are so many & they are so broad. There are a range of behaviours commonly linked to ASD. These are some of the included;
*Language – Often delayed, sometimes absent or abnormal developmental patterns of language development.
*Play- isolated, repetitive, a preference for one thing or predictable play. Difficulty with Imaginative play.
*Restricted or Obsessive behaviour – with favourite toys, devices are a nightmare (bewarned), objects, places, people or activities.
*Rituals and Routines – these help bring some order to chaos and confusion. A change to routine can result in the person displaying high levels of stress and anxiety or acting out.
*Tantrums – Can be a common way to express extreme confusion, stress, anxiety, anger and frustration due to lack of communication or unable to express their emotions in any other way.
*Sensory processing differences – difficulties processing certain sounds, colours, tastes, smells and textures. They make seek and avoid particular sensations. Some people with ASD will have difficulty discriminating sensory information, for example hot versus cold.
*Body Movements – Stereotypical behaviour, such as flapping and toe walking, running around in circles (especially on trampolines), stabbing of knives and other behaviours that may cause self-injury, such as hand biting or hitting of the head.
Social Communication Issues:
*Difficulty understanding non-verbal communication, such as body language
*Difficulty understanding when and how to appropriately respond in conversation or in social interactions
*Trouble developing, understanding and maintaining relationships with others
What treatments are there for autism?
As autism is a spectrum, every individual’s needs are very different. There is no core treatment known to be effective for the condition of autism. The main categories of intervention are:
*Psychotherapeutic or psychodynamic
*Psychoeducational, including behavioural
*Alternative or complementary
Early intervention is the most important in helping a child with ASD reach their full potential. The child’s treatment team or specialists will help to develop an action plan for the child, information resources, parent training and strategies for family support. It is a holistic approach which will make a difference in the child’s improvement.
Treatments will vary depending on the needs of the child, as previously stated. Some might usually include; Speech therapy, Occupational therapy, Behavioural therapy, medication, social skills development, environmental adjustments & special education settings are the most commonly used.
Is there a link between ASD and Immunisation?
No. Any link between immunisation and ASD has been completely discredited.
Is Autism caused by exposure to Radiation/mercury/drinking during pregnancy?
Autism has been linked to a multitude of different possible causes. There is, however, very little evidence to support most of these theories.
Is Autism on the Increase?
There is evidence to show that the numbers diagnosed with autism are increasing, however there has been a broadening of the diagnostic criteria. Diagnostic practices have improved and become more readily available. Autism is now being spoken about more commonly. Autism has only recently, in time, (60’s and 70’s) been properly diagnosed and recognized. There are currently no accurate current records of numbers of people living with autism at this time with which we can compare. It is thought/ suspected, that the number of adults living with autism is vastly underestimated.
How can I find out what caused my child’s autism?
In most people, it is not possible to identify the exact cause of autism. There are a few genetic syndromes associated with autism (Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome) in which the genetic cause is known. Scientists have identified a number of rare genetic changes that are major contributors to autism. In about 25% of autism cases, a specific genetic cause can be identified. In the other 75%, likely involved a more complex case of genetic factors and / or yet-to-be identified environmental influences.
How many people are affected by Autism?
In 2017, according to the Australian Bureau of statistics, an estimated 164,000 Australians had autism in 2015. This has a prevalence rate of about 1 in 150 people.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, of course in the USA, reported that 1 in 68 children in the U.S have autism spectrum disorder.