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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder, meaning it usually becomes apparent during the very early stages of development, and is characterised by social skills and communication deficits, as well as restrictive repetitive behaviours, interests or activities.

Intellectual disability may often, though not necessarily, accompany autism.

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that, while children with autism share certain traits, their skills deficits are varied, both in the type of areas involved and in the degree to which these may be affected. Additionally, no one child with autism is like another, since, like anyone else, they each have unique personalities, interests and beliefs.

The emergence of symptoms may be varied, with some children presenting delays in the emergence of one or a number of developmental milestones, while others seem to regress or "lose" these  skills, upon having been developing them.

Although considered permanent, the symptoms within autism are permeable to change, and with adequate skill development programs, a child with autism may have a very positive outcome.  

What are some features of Autism?

No one child with autism is likely to display every "textbook" symptom of autism. However, there tend to be some signs to look out for, including:

It is advisable to consult your child's paediatrician or schedule a developmental consultation, if your child doesn't meet or has "lost" the following developmental milestones:

  • Smiling by 6 months;

  • Imitating facial expressions or sounds by 9 months;

  • Cooing or babbling by 12 months;

  • Using gestures, like pointing to objects/people or waving to people, by 14 months;

  • Speaking with single words by 16 months and using sentences with two or more words by 24 months;

  • Playing pretend or “make-believe” by 18 months.

Assessment of Autism:

The screening protocol for Autism involves a comprehensive assessment including: gathering background information on the acquisition of developmental milestones; assessment of cognitive abilities and executive functioning, learning, oral language skills, functional/daily living skills, social and communication skills; as well as an observation of the child in class and with peers.

Therapeutic Support in Autism:

An individualised intervention program is developed, targeting the areas and needs identified during the assessment phase.

Areas to develop may include:

  • ...

  • ...

  • ...

Methods and Approaches may include:

  • Multisensorial skills development

ABA uses operant conditioning and, thus, positive reinforcement, to teach children the skills they need to develop.

Additionally, we are keen to liaise with the child’s school and teachers by sharing strategies to help the child access the curriculum, adapt to specific situations, and interact more appropriately.

Other challenges faced by children with Autism:

comorbidities (ef dysfunction, dyspraxia);

emotional challenges because although they may appear to lack interest in others, they do endeavour social interaction in their own way, and may struggle with friendships, feel left out or made fun of, etc

Children with Specific Learning Disabilities may sometimes present emotional and behavioural difficulties, including those arising from trying to cope with their learning challenges. They may present with lack of motivation, low self-esteem, difficulty focusing, and task refusal. We, therefore, also make a point of monitoring their emotional well-being, as well as recommending and providing emotional and behavioural support whenever needed.

Up to 12 months:

  • Baby does not respond to his/her name at 12 months;

  • Is not interested in playing, sharing, or talking with other people;

  • Prefers to be alone;

  • Avoids or rejects physical contact;

  • Avoids eye contact.;

  • When upset, does not like to be comforted;

  • Does not appear to understand or respond to others' emotional reactions;

  • May not stretch out his arms to be picked up.

Preschool and School Children:

  • Delayed speech;

  • Monotone, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice

  • Frequent repetition on phrases and words (echolalia)

  •  pronouns (saying “you” instead of “I,” for example)

  • Not using or rarely using common gestures (pointing or waving), and not responding to them

  • Difficulty staying on topic when talking or answering questions

  • Not recognizing sarcasm or joking

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