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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - A developmental disorder of childhood characterized by marked deficits in communication and social interaction, preoccupation with fantasy, language impairment, and abnormal behavior, such as repetitive acts and excessive attachment to certain objects. It is usually associated with intellectual impairment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): The Early Signs
ASD is a severe developmental disability, with current research indicating that as many as approximately 1 in every 120 children born.
One of the first signs, which can alert a parent to the fact that their child is not developing as he or she should, is the manner in which their young child responds to them. The child may not learn to speak or have very limited speech. The child may also have great difficulty in comprehending the speech of others.
Some children with ASD can develop good spoken language. However, their language is very concrete and literal; it lacks a social quality and is not used in a conversational manner.
Parents may notice that their young toddler with ASD does not seem interested in playing with other children. They may also notice that their child is not playing with toys in an imaginative way. Instead, the child may spend time placing toys in neat lines or engaging in the same sequence of play activity over and over again.
Common Features of ASD
Impaired social interactions eg a lack of spontaneous interest in sharing in activities or interests with others, or lack of appropriate social responsiveness.
Lack of make-believe play.
Absence of language, or echoing of language, or language used in a very literal way.
Impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation.
Distress or difficulty with change to a routine.
Narrow and restricted range of interests eg may have a preoccupation with an object, may only be interested in lining up objects or making collections of particular items, may only be interested in a single topic or amassing facts about a single interest.
Is There Any Success in Treating ASD?
Children do not grow out of ASD. With appropriate intervention however, they can be assisted to gain many of the skills we take for granted, such as learning to play, to communicate and to respond to others in a social way.
People with ASD benefit enormously from programs, which provide them with a means to communicate, and to develop the skills they need to participate in everyday life.
With appropriate education, and the support of dedicated people, the person with ASD can go on to lead a fulfilled life, engaging in social activities and vocational pursuits in later life.
What Can Be Done?
The cause of ASD is still unknown despite worldwide research. We do know however, that specialised programs help to markedly reduce many of the difficulties experienced by the person with ASD, and improve the quality of life for their family. With appropriate teaching, the child with ASD can be taught to communicate using verbal or visual systems of communication. The child can also be assisted to cope with change and to develop many of the social skills necessary for day-to-day life.
People involved in teaching or supporting the person with ASD need to understand the nature of ASD, how it impacts on learning, and how to use appropriate strategies to overcome the many difficulties the child and older person with ASD experiences in everyday situations.
Is Diagnosis Important?
Without diagnosis, a child with an ASD cannot receive the specialist intervention and education they require to develop or maximise their skills. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chances are of a child receiving appropriate help and support.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT)
Aspect provides information, education and other services through partnerships with people with ASD, their families and communities.
Sue Larkey is uniquely positioned within the Education System having both taught as a Primary School Teacher and Special Education Teacher. Sue has taught students with ASD in the mainstream and at a Specialist ASD School. She combines the practical experience with extensive research, having completed a Masters in Special Education and currently undertaking a Doctorate of Education.