Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism is characterised by three groups of symptoms: –

  1. Restricted repetitive and fixed behaviour. This may include repeating words (echolalia), arranging toys/ items in a specific way, odd behaviours and so on.
  2. Language and communication challenges characterised by delayed/disordered speech
  3. Abnormal reciprocal social interaction that may be noted in poor eye contact, inability to engage in group play or abnormal reactions/ responses.

What causes autism?

The cause is unknown but there are several theories and your child may have some or none of these risk factors. They include a genetic component (as is seen in siblings), toxic agents like lead poisoning, infections before and during pregnancy and autoimmune disorders whereby the body produces chemicals against its own tissues among others.

Does Autism ever go away/ does it get fully treated?

Autism is a chronic (life-long) disorder but many treatments also known as therapies can help improve the symptoms and quality of life of the child. These include speech therapy & occupational therapy that have better outcomes when instituted as early as possible in the child`s life.

What will be the outcome of my child?

80% have learning disability and may benefit from a special education system/learning support.

80% have normal IQ (intelligence quotient) and excel in various aspects like mathematics, art, music etc.

Each child is different in terms of severity and presentation hence the a prediction of their future life largely depends on the individual child and the therapies instituted.

What should I expect at my appointment?

  1. Ages and stages questionnaire will be filled
  2. A detailed history will be taken by a qualified medical doctor, paediatrician or psychiatrist. It is important for the biological mother to be present or the carer to have the details pertaining to the pregnancy, birth and early childhood development, behavior and milestones.
  3. You will be required to have a hearing test done even though you may feel like your child can hear well. It is to confirm the level of hearing as hearing problems may present with some of these symptoms and may interfere with the recommended speech treatment.
  4. You may be sent for relevant medical blood tests. Complete blood count, thyroid function tests, various genetic tests, Nutritional assessment among others
  5. You may be referred to a speech specialist, occupational therapist and educational psychologist for further assessment.
  6. Past school reports will be assessed.
  7. You may be referred for specific screening tests for those with unclear features which are more thorough prolonged assessments to confirm a diagnosis of Autism. This is undertaken at a different appointment by a paediatric neurodevelopmental specialist.

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

What treatment/ management options I’m I likely to be given after the diagnosis is confirmed?

  1. Speech therapy
  2. Occupational therapy
  3. Appropriate education assessment and school placement
  4. Parenting programs

Is there any kind of psychological support available for parents after the diagnosis is made?

Yes. Parents are sent for counselling as it is a diagnosis that requires a lot from the primary caregiver and family as a whole.

Better education on the diagnosis and plan of management is given.

Parents are also trained on how to assist at home during the therapy sessions and afterwards.

What are the red flags?

  1. Poor eye contact
  2. Speech development and then regression
  3. Less than 10 words at 2 years of age
  4. Playing alone or parallel