Autism
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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, also Known as ASD is a neuro-developmental disorder or disability.  Variable severity, that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction/situations and communication as well as/ or restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. Now this is the meaning in the dictionary, however we now know that Autism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella of disorders, rather than just using the word Autism to describe a person’s disorder.

The term Autism Spectrum Disorder includes Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive developmental disorder and Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PPD-NOS). People on the autism spectrum find social communication and interaction difficult, they like routine and predictability. All people on the autism spectrum are individual and unique, and no two people on the spectrum are alike, even though they may have a similar or similar  problems or traits. A person on the Autism spectrum has difficulties in some areas of their development, but other skills may develop typically.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects a person’s capabilities or rather ability to interact with everyday situations and learnings, aka the world around them.

This neuro-developmental disability is thought to have neurological or genetic causes or both. Although it is a genetic condition, the exact gene thought to cause ASD is not yet known.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects approximately 1 in 100 to 110 children of school age. Males are around four times more likely to be affected than females.

Children with mild symptoms are sometimes referred to as high functioning. The children with autism that are classified moderate to severe, are often the ones that have difficulty with speech (delayed speech) and communication. This makes sense as it is an added difficulty in expressing their needs.

Higher functioning children with ASD often become intensely interested in one topic, often to the exclusion of other activities or interests, or family life. I personally, have experienced this with our 6 year old boy, who has been diagnosed with level 2 ASD. I know all parents have an issue with devices and technology these days. My 6 year old, however is extreme. At the moment, if his phone, his brothers phone, all IPADS and my phone are all on charge & non are available, he will go into a complete melt-down. Breakfast, lunch, Dinner times complete melt down. 

Routine and Limited amounts or session times of devices and addictive play time is best kept to Limited Set routine times.

CHARACTERISTICS OF ASD

There are a large range of behaviours that are common in ASD. Here are A top few:

*    Language

*    Play

*    Body movements

*    Restricted or obsessive  and Repetitive behaviours

*    Routine and Rituals

*    Tantrums

*    Sensory processing differences

Communication & Language is high on this list, as it is more often than not an issue with ASD children. Often delayed or abnormal developmental patterns in the progression, and sometimes absent. Many different communication styles are shown with children who are on the Autism Spectrum. Some people on the autism spectrum never develop language, while others progress to or have good verbal language skills. For those who do have language, they often have difficulty using appropriate grammar and vocabulary, and constructing meaningful sentences, while concentrating on the direction of the sentence. Misunderstanding words, and interpreting them literally or sometimes not understanding at all, are all quite common.

Many children who have normal language skills, still have problems interacting with other people. Their conversations may be one sided, they may talk excessively or make up new (their own) language (neologism), or repeating certain words and sounds. (echolalia) Counting and naming the alphabet over and over is also common.

Non verbal communication is often difficult to pick up on for a lot of children with ASD. They, more often than not, struggle with sarcasm, understanding or picking up on non-verbal communication, reading body language. Other people’s feelings and emotions can be difficult to understand. This may seem they appear or they seem disinterested in others, aloof, not caring or unsure of how to engage in the experiences and emotions of others.

Some people on the spectrum, can find it challenging to establish & maintain friendships. Some appear to be withdrawn or can become isolated.

We have already spoken about restricted or obsessive behaviour with favourite topics, objects, game, people, place or activity. Again this is where routine and rituals come in. 

There are other difficulties children with ASD can also have, which are:

*    Restricted eating patterns

*    Sleeping problems

*    Anxiety

*    Behaviour problems

*    Emotional difficulties

*    Learning difficulties

*    Attention difficulties

*    Difficulties with planning and organising

Intellectual Ability is a main factor that affects how a child with ASD behaves and functions. Children with ASD can range from severely intellectually disabled through to highly intelligent.

The child’s level of ability is often uneven, with areas of strength and weakness.

Treatment for ASD

Early Intervention is most important in the treatment of your child. This is in every area. The child’s treatment team and how closely they work with and teach the family. Parent training, strategies for family support and teaching and an action plan for the specific child, is how best to treat your child with ASD.

Speech Therapy

Medication

Behaviour Therapy

Occupational Therapy

Social Skills development

Environmental Changes

Special Education settings

All of the above are frequently used in the Treatment and Support of ASD. The needs of the child will change over time, and the focus of treatment will change to meet your child’s needs.

What Causes ASD?

Research to date,suggests that ASD is a genetic condition, however the exact gene thought to cause the disorder has not yet been found or identified.

The talk about Autism and Vaccination…

That is exactly what it is. In 1998, a paper was published on a potential link between ASD and other diseases with vaccines. This was later proven to be fraudulent. Since then, many studies continue to be done & none to date have shown an association between vaccinations and ASD.

Is there a chance a child may grow out of ASD?

People with ASD will not grow out of this condition. They will instead learn ways to function with it. Aiming to achieve being able to live normal successful, comfortable lives.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disorder one learns to live with. What sensory issues may set them off, etc. As stated previously, Early Intervention by a complete team, including family, will give any child living with ASD the best chance to live a normal life.

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