Open Your Mind to the World of Autism

Worldwide, there is not nearly enough services and support available for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and they are often subject to stigma, discrimination and human rights violations.

World Autism Awareness Day, observed annually on 2 April, hopes to continue increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with ASD.

In this blog post we will give an overview of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by looking at the definition, signs of autism, a few facts and recommended resources.

What is ASD? 

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. It influences how an affected person communicates with and relates to others and how they make sense of the world around them. Various combinations of genetic, environmental and unknown factors are believed to cause ASD.

Autism spectrum disorder is the name for a group of conditions characterised by unique strengths and differences as well as challenges with:

  • Social skills
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Speech and nonverbal communication

There are many types of autism. The word “spectrum” indicates the wide variation in challenges and strengths each person with autism has.

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association placed the following disorders under the umbrella diagnosis of ASD:

  • Autistic disorder
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Asperger syndrome
Signs of Autism

All parents, caregivers and educators should be encouraged to learn the early signs of autism along with child developmental milestones. The following observations may indicate risk for ASD and should be discussed with a pediatrician or family doctor immediately:

  • By 6 months and onwards: no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions
  • By 9 months: no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
  • By 12 months: no babbling
  • By 12 months: no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
  • By 16 months: no words
  • By 24 months: no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)
  • At any age: any loss of speech, babbling or social skills

Between 2 and 3 years of age is usually when the most obvious signs show up, but autism can even be diagnosed as early as 18 months. If developmental delays are noticed earlier, they should be addressed immediately since early intervention can greatly improve outcomes. 

DID YOU KNOW

Facts from the World Health Organization and Autism Speaks:

  • 1 in 160 children has an ASD
  • Approximately ⅓ of people with autism remain nonverbal
  • Approximately ⅓ of people with autism also have an intellectual disability
  • ASDs start in childhood and tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood
  • Studies involving more than 1.2 million children reaffirm that vaccines do not cause autism
  • Some individuals with ASD can live independently; others with severe disabilities require life-long care and support
  • Autism is often accompanied by certain medical and mental health issues such as seizures, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias
  • Evidence-based psychosocial interventions, such as behavioural treatment and parent skills training programmes, can reduce difficulties in communication and social behaviour, with a positive impact on wellbeing and quality of life for persons with ASD and their caregivers
Valuable Free Resources

There are amazing resources for parents, caregivers and concerned adults who want to understand developmental milestones, learn how to screen for autism symptoms and access proper services.

 

Early Access to Care: Resources for Parents

Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT-R™)

The 100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families of Young Children

 

Effective interventions for people with ASD cannot happen in isolation. Awareness and understanding need to increase and we need to make physical, social and attitudinal environments more accessible, inclusive and supportive.


PLEASE NOTE: The information above does not and should not replace personal consultation, when and where relevant, with a qualified healthcare professional.

 

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