Autism Spectrum Disorder & Asperger’s Syndrome

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder & Asperger’s Syndrome?

Autism is a developmental condition, which typically lasts a lifetime. Much about autism is still unknown, but it is believed to have neurological and/or genetic causes. Autism is part of the class of conditions known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which used to also include Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). However, in May 2013 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition combined all three categories into one, which is simply referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Children with autism often struggle with social interaction, communication skills, as well as understanding and processing emotions—which leads to behavioural issues. The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

The word ‘spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties that people on the autism spectrum may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have accompanying learning challenges and require continued specialist support.

Children on the autism spectrum may also have:

  • unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
  • sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
  • intellectual impairment or learning difficulties

What are the indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

The signs of autism and ASD may be difficult to identify, as no 2 children with the condition are exactly the same. However, Autism Spectrum Disorders can be diagnosed from approximately 18 months to two years of age in most children. At this age, it can usually be seen whether a baby or child’s development is conforming to accepted, age-based milestones, particularly in relation to social and emotional interaction and communication.

Signs of autism in children can include:

  • being slow to develop language skills
  • learning difficulties
  • preferring to play by themselves in repetitive activities
  • hand flapping, toe walking, and even hand-biting
  • an obsession with favourite objects and topics
  • a dislike for change, resulting in anxiety or stress
  • not engage in pretend play – for example, they won’t feed a baby doll
  • shows little or no interest in other children or peers.
  • be extremely sensitive to sensory experiences – for example, they might be easily upset by certain sounds, or only eat foods with a certain texture
  • have intense interest in certain objects – they’ll get ‘stuck’ on one particular toy or object
  • show little eye contact – for example, during interaction, or to draw attention to something
  • not use gestures – for example, lifting arms to be picked up
  • not share enjoyment or interests – for example, they might not point to an object or event to share it
  • shows little emotion or empathy

Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Unfortunately there is no known cure for autism; however, research shows early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve a child’s development and trajectory. Intervention for ASD can offer involve a multi-disciplinary team who work together to assist your child across all aspects of their development and can include:

  • Paediatrician
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Psychologist
  • Occupational Therapist

Evidence-based treatment for ASD is focused on increasing social, emotional and communication skills. Intervention can help children with forming positive, meaningful relationships with other people by teaching children new behaviours and skills by using specialised, structured techniques.

YLO Psychology Clinic can offer both assessment for ASD as well as intervention and treatment. For more information on how we can assist please give us a call on 07 3341 4619. If you would like more information on autism spectrum disorders please see www.autismspectrum.org.au.