Autism Spectrum Disorder

This is a spectrum or group of neuro developmental condition in which children find it difficult to communicate, and interact socially along with stereotyped rigid routines. They also have sensory processing disorder and other comorbid conditions. Autism has a high genetic predisposing incident rate.

Being a spectrum means that this condition encompasses three levels, level 2 and 3 requiring substantial and very substantial support for daily functional activities. Such children may have difficulty communicating and may focus their attention on inanimate objects. It is also common to have significant speech difficulties. Additionally, non-verbal cues may be hard for such children to understand and in cases of sarcasm, meaning may be lost to them. 

It is common for children with ASD to display repetitive behaviours and have limited interests with an insistence on routine. They may prefer their senses for exploration such as tasting. It is also common for them to display obsessive actions. 

Co-morbid conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping problems
  • Attention deficits disorder
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Learning difficulties
  • Developmental delays
  • Fussy eating

There is a huge variation in the intellectual abilities of children with ASD with some of them being severely disabled to being highly intelligent. It is important to note that even in an individual child, there may be a display of both weakness and strengths. 

Management of ASD

  • Comprehensive assessment by a Paediatrician or a Developmental Paediatrician at the local area Health CATS team or Psychologist.
  • Comprehensive investigations including genetic tests.
  • Referral to Early Childhood Intervention Therapies at local community health centres, private allied practitioners and to seek help from the Government funding via EACH or NDIS applications.
  • Speech therapy: Most children with ASD have difficulty understanding others through conversation. It is therefore important that they see our speech therapists who will enable them to engage in healthy meaningful conversations.
  • Behaviour Psychological therapy, this is done by our in-house psychologist who will help the child find ways of dealing with their outbursts as well as counsel the parents.
  • Occupational therapy will also help children that are overly sensitive to sensory stimuli like hearing and touch.
  • Medication: This may help to reduce some of the symptoms listed above. It is however not the mainstay of treatment.
  • Special education school: Children with ASD may benefit from attending schools that are specially formulated to treat and understand them.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Vaccinations

There have been various questions as to whether vaccinations are the cause for the increased number of children with ASD. Research has however gone to show that the reason why there seems to be an apparent increase in number is because of more testing and better healthcare. For that reason, there seems to be more than is actually true. Recent research has shown that there is no link between vaccinations and ASD.

Children develop at different rates; however, parents should speak with our doctor if they notice the following by 24 -36 months:

  • Does not respond to his/her name
  • Appears to be deaf at times
  • Does not speak often
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm
  • Engages in repetitive motions, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
  • Is easily upset by a change in routine

When to see our doctors

A diagnosis of ASD may require a multi-disciplinary team and it is therefore essential that one’s first concern is to book an appointment. Of note is that most of the symptoms of ASD are associated with being a child and as such excluding ASD may have to wait till a child is considerably older, ideally after the age of three.

We have a Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist and Psychologist at Kids Health Space. Book an appointment with our Paediatricians and allied health team at kids Health Space for comprehensive multidisciplinary team management.