WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD)?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder beginning at birth or shortly after. The characteristic symptoms involve delay and deviance in social and communicative development, along with restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. Certain sensory, motor, and cognitive characteristics are also associated with autism.1 However, these may not be recognised until later, when social demands, such as those related to schooling, become greater. There is no definitive test for autism; instead, diagnosis is made on the basis of developmental assessments and behavioural observations.2

The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) covers diagnostic labels which include Autistic Disorder, High Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder -- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Children with these labels all share the social and communicative symptoms which are the core of autism, but they vary in severity of symptoms and in level of functioning.3

WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?

No specific cause has yet been identified although there is growing evidence that autism may be inherited to a significant degree.4

Research shows that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child (even if the parent does not have autism). Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder.5

EARLY INTERVENTION

 

To help children with autism, it is essential to focus on the earliest years of development, since this is a critically important time for early learning which powerfully affects the child's future life course.6 Every child with autism has unique strengths and challenges, so there is no one size fits all approach to autism treatment and intervention. Each autism intervention or treatment plan should be tailored to address the person's specific needs.

 

Intervention can involve behavioural treatments, medicines, or both. Many people with autism have additional medical conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures, and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Addressing these conditions can improve attention, learning, and related behaviours.

Typical intervention methods include:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

  • Floortime

  • Occupational Therapy (OT)

  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)

  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

  • Speech Therapy

  • TEACCH

  • Verbal Behaviour 7

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

1,3,4,6 Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: 'Guidelines for Good Practice' 2012, Margot Prior and Jacqueline Roberts

2 aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/autism-in-australia/contents/autism

5 autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism

7 autismspeaks.org/treatments

If they can't learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn.

Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas

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