Apr 21

What is Autism?

By Jayson Ellis

A diagnosis of autism, or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), can seem daunting at times. The most important thing to remember is that symptoms, and their severity, vary greatly, and even though there will be challenges, they equally have their strengths.

Here is an outline of what autism and ASD are and how they may present.

What Are Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism and ASD is a very broad term that refers to a range of conditions that are usually characterised by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours, among other things.

Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each case will have its own unique set of strengths and challenges that will need to be faced. It is not uncommon for ASD to include sensory sensitivity and medical issues such as sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and mental health challenges such as anxiety or attention issues.

Autism can be diagnosed quite at a young age and research has shown that early intervention will lead to positive outcomes in later life.

Signs Of Autism/Diagnosis

It’s important to remember that there is a wide range of signs and symptoms that could indicate that someone has ASD. Not all of those who have autism will display every symptom, and some people who don’t have autism may also display some of the same behaviours.

People with ASD often struggle with communication, have difficulty connecting socially or emotionally with others, and may have sensory challenges with extreme reactions to sounds, tastes, touch, or smell. Some other common signs include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Delayed speech and communication skills
  • Reliance on rules and routines
  • Becoming hyper focused a narrow range of interests or objects
  • Repetitive behaviours, such as flapping hands or rocking

If you think that your child may display one or more of signs you can take an online test here.

How Does It Affect Children?

Autism in children is often diagnosed between 18 months and three years of age, but the age of diagnosis and the intensity of the early signs may vary wildly. Not every child will show every symptom, and some may have more severe symptoms.

The main signs and symptoms are usually split into two categories, Social Communication & Social Interaction and Repetitive Behaviours.

Social Communication & Social Interaction

These indicators identify whether the child doesn’t like to be cuddled or hugged, prefers to play alone, or is unresponsive to their name.

Older children may have difficulties understanding how others feel, how relationships work and may struggle to read body language.

Repetitive Behaviours

These refer to both physical behaviours that may occur (repeating the same action over and over), and how the child responds to structure, order, and free time.

It’s not uncommon for ASD to present with a child becoming hyper-focussed on small details or finding changes to daily routines vary challenging.

Help For Parents

Having a child with autism or ASD can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Your child will indeed have to live with the diagnosis for the rest of their lives, but many effective treatments will give your child the skills needed to overcome many challenges they will face in the future. There is a local and a global community that is always willing to help answer questions and help each other.

One of the best things you can do as a parent is to understand the diagnosis and how it is affecting your child. Your child will have quirks and you need to be able to accept them and love them regardless. You need to strive to create a safe environment for your child that can provide the structure and support to help them navigate the challenges that lie ahead. And finally, make sure you find ways to show them that you love them through non-verbal communication.

There is a large community, both locally and internationally, offering support to those living with autism. But, understanding your specific challenges, and finding tools to cope with them is crucial. Early diagnosis is always ideal, but if you feel your child needs specific care and treatment, don’t hesitate to implement it.



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