Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that affects interpersonal relationships and perceptions of the world. It is a characterised by difficulty with social skills and verbal and nonverbal communication, and by restricted or repetitive behaviours or thought patterns. The latest studies on the prevalence of autism indicated that 1.1 percent of the population in the UK might be on the autism spectrum.
Autism is not an illness or a disease and it cannot be ‘cured,’ however, it is manageable. Early diagnosis and intervention are they key to managing the condition.
Now, autism is more often called ‘autism spectrum disorder.’ This is a term used to denote all conditions that come under the umbrella of the autism spectrum. It is not a replacement and more specific terms are still used in cases that require them.
The Autism Spectrum
It is important to note that there is no single type of autism. Instead there are many subtypes. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, which means that each person will experience autism in a different way and have different characteristics. No two people with ASD are alike. Their ability to learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged; therefore, some people may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need little to no support.
Types Of Autism Spectrum Disorders:
The three most common types of Autism Spectrum Disorders are:
• Autistic Disorder
Also referred to as the ‘classic autism.’ People with this type of ASD usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and ‘unusual’ behaviours and interests.
• Asperger’s Syndrome
People with Asperger’s syndrome usually have some milder symptoms of autistic disorder, and they generally do not have intellectual struggles or language problems. However, they may still have ‘unusual’ behaviours and social challenges.
• Pervasive Developmental Disorder
People with PDD typically have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. The symptoms may only include social and communication challenges.
Early Indicators of Autism
Indicators of autism usually appear at a very early age, in most cases by the age of 2 or 3, which means early assessment can lead to an intervention that will ensure the child’s long-term success. Additionally, research shows that early intervention results in positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
- Few or no big smiles and limited to no eye contact by 6 months
- Minimal or no sharing of sound or facial expressions back and forth by 9 months
- Little to no one-word communications by 16 months
- Little to no babbling, pointing or responding to name by 12 months
- Very few or no words
- No two-word phrases by 24 months
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Persistent repetition of words
- Unusual attachment to one particular toy or object
- Not responding to sounds, voices, or name
- Loss of skills at any time
Unfortunately, there are still many long-held misconceptions surrounding autism. Some people believe that people with autism can never lead a ‘normal’ life and will require care for the rest of their lives, and some people choose to brush the condition off as eccentricity.
Autism brings with it a highly personal set of challenges and triumphs for every person who has the condition. Much like anyone else, there are soaring highs and crashing lows, but people with autism can, and do, lead full and rich lives with or without support. That is why early intervention is so crucial. .
Professional early intervention means a care plan can be put into action. This allows for greater understanding of the condition for both the person with ASD and their family. It also allows for interventions to be put into place to ensure the most full and comfortable life. This is especially important for children with autism who need access to the correct educational facilities.
If your child exhibits any of the aforementioned signs or is missing major early developmental milestones, ask your GP for an evaluation at the earliest possible instance.
More information on ASD can be found here.