Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears in the first three years of life. Autism impacts the normal development of the brain that usually affects social interaction and communication skills. Children with autism classically have difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction including play activities. This disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others, relate to people, regulate emotion and adapt to change around them.
Autism is often referred to as a spectrum disorder meaning that the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. Also autism ranges from mild to severe, affecting different areas differently in each individual. The autism spectrum describes a range of conditions mainly including classic autism, Asperger syndrome and atypical autism. These disorders are typically characterized by social deficits, communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviours and interests, and in some cases, cognitive delays.
Asperger syndrome can be distinguished from autism by the lack of delay or deviance in early language development and absence of significant cognitive delays. Other symptoms similar to autism may include repetitive routines or rituals, peculiarities in speech and language, inapt social behaviour, problems with non-verbal communication, and clumsy or uncoordinated motor movements.
What causes Autism? Medical researchers are exploring different explanations for different forms of autism.
Is there a cure? To cure means to restore to health, soundness and normalcy. In medical science, there is no cure for the differences in the brain that result in autism.
Rise in the incidence of Autism: The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has released a prevalence figure of 1 in 50 for autism in the United States. Autism is one of some common developmental disabilities, more common than Down Syndrome. Yet majority of the public, including many professionals in the medical, educational and vocational fields are unaware how to work effectively with individuals with autism. There is a need for better diagnosing to get better at accepting autistic people, seeing their potential, and ensuring the supports and resources they need to fulfil that potential.
So what is the most effective approach to Autism? Because of the spectrum nature of autism and the many behaviour combinations, no one approach is effective in alleviating symptoms of autism in all cases. Various types of therapeutic interventions available include behaviour modification, speech/language therapy, sensory integration, occupational therapy, music therapy, vision therapy, medications, dietary interventions etc. Experience has shown that individuals with autism respond well to a highly structured, specialised education and behaviour modification program.
A well designed intervention approach will include some amount of communication therapy, social skill development, sensory integration therapy, and behaviour modification at minimum, delivered by autism trained professionals, in a consistent, comprehensive and coordinated manner. These will give your child what he/she needs to strengthen skills in problem solving, communication, social development, emotional development, adaptive skills, and self-regulation.Parents can play a huge role by practising at home in a similar manner the skills taught at school.The areas where the child could benefit from developmental services are:
- Attention and interest
- Ability to follow directions
- Functional communication
- Ability to successfully initiate, sustain, and terminate mutually reciprocal interactions with adults and peers
- Developmentally appropriate play and social interaction
- Ability to regulate self in developmentally appropriate ways
- Self-help and safety awareness
- Problem solving skills
Screening is a quick general measure of your child’s development. We use standardized screening tools to identify whether your child needs further evaluation. This determines if the child has a developmental delay or disability. Developmental screenings do not diagnose. Screenings help to tell parents if the child is át risk’ for autism. It is then recommended that a child who is ‘at risk’ of a later diagnosis of autism is put on an early intervention program as soon as possible. This ensures that we have effectively utilised the child’s early years that have proven to be so very important to development.
Why should I have my child screened? Between the ages of 2 and 5, children are in a critical stage of development. If your child has a delay or challenge, the earlier you identify the issue and seek services, the greater the impact of therapeutic services.
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by 9 months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age (regression)
Assessments are specific to developmental domains – Assessments measure your child’s level of functioning in a specific domain:cognitive, motor, speech, physical, social/emotional, etc.
Evaluations identify a child’s needs in all areas of development and can determine the existence of a delay or disability. A developmental evaluation focuses on the whole child, targeting the above mentioned domains: cognitive development, speech and language (receptive and expressive communication),physical development(fine and gross motor)& Sensory Processing, social-emotional development (including attachment and peer interactions), self-help (adaptive) and behaviour. Evaluations are done through play observations and standardized tests that present your child with certain tasks to determine areas of strength and weakness.