Autism or ASD is a developmental condition that is typically life-long. People with autism experience difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviours. These are often accompanied by sensory issues, such an oversensitivity or undersensitivity to sounds, smells or touch. All of these difficulties may lead to behavioural challenges in some individuals.
The term “spectrum” is used to emphasise that autism presents differently in every single person. People with autism have a wide range of challenges as well as abilities.
Signs and Symptoms your child has Autism Spectrum
As a parent or carer it can be a difficult and tumultuous time when there is uncertainty about whether your child is showing signs and symptoms of autism spectrum.
It may be helpful to look out for the following signs & symptoms:
- Your child is not meeting typical developmental milestones, particularly regarding speech/language, social and motor skills
- Social challenges which may look like delays in imaginative play, co-operative play and perspective-taking skills
- Ongoing challenges initiating and maintaining relationships with same-aged peers
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying based on non-verbal face, voice and body cues
- Challenges communicating needs and emotions using typical facial expressions
- Atypical speech patterns which may look like repetition of particular words or phrases
- Extreme upset and avoidance of textures related to foods, textures and/or sounds
- Excessive need to seeking out textures and/or sounds
- Unusual or excessive emotional reactions to seemingly mundane changes to daily routines
- Repetitive physical actions or behaviours, which may look like flapping hands or lining up toys
- Obsessive and restricted preference to talk about or focus on a preferred interest
- Challenges in ability to manage emotions, particularly anger and anxiety
It is important to note that girls with autism spectrum are often better at ‘masking’ or ‘camouflaging’ symptoms to fit in with peers. As an additional note it may be important to watch the following signs & symptoms in girls:
- Copying peers and others in social situations
- Often shyer and/or unusually passive
- Tendency to ‘mask’ and remain calm during the day and then have meltdowns in the home environment
If your child is presenting with the following signs and symptoms then a follow up assessment by a GP or pediatrician, alongside health support like a psychologist is advised.
You can book online to see one of our friendly psychologists here: https://portal.coreplus.com.au/youthrive
Three Myths about Autism
Myths about autism can often be harmful as they societally contribute to ideas which are untrue and can seek to disadvantage individuals social and emotional wellbeing.
1. Autistic people/people with autism don’t want to have friends
- Untrue and can be harmful
- People who are neurodiverse seek connection and meaningful relationships
- People with autism present with communication and social DIFFERENCES, referred to as ‘neurodiverse social skills’
We can help by learning, accepting and understanding neurodiverse social skills so more people can communicate and build relationships with autistic people
2. Autistic people lack ability to feel emotions
- They can care deeply about friends and family but express emotions in a way that is different to ‘neurotypical’ people
- May have difficulties seeing other people’s perspectives, understanding thoughts and motivations, which should not be confused with not having emotions/feelings
- The way each person expresses their emotions will look different and unique to them
We can help by being patient, providing people with communication tools and support to express how they feel in their own unique way
3. Girls can’t have autism
- girls often present differently to boys
- girls often enjoy more age appropriate/typical interests
- girls often mimic or copy their peers
- girls may ‘mask’ (hide autistic traits), resulting in greater behaviour challenges in home environment
- often more advanced social communication skills
We can help by understanding and preventing circulation of myths and stereotypes by learning more about autism and getting information from reputable sources. Remember, every person with autism is unique! It is important to learn about neurodiversity and listen to autistic voices.
Getting a Diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis needs to be conducted by a health professional (GP, paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist) or a team of health professionals (paediatrician, psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist).
The guideline recommends the following steps to diagnose:
- Assessment of function eg. Questions about a child’s thinking, speech and language, daily living skills, friendships and schools
- Medical Assessment: Doctor will examine your child to see if there could be a medical cause for their developmental delays
- Diagnostic Assessment: You (parent and/or carer) and child will be interviewed and your child will be observed for signs of Autism
Youthrive provides comprehensive DSM-5 Autism assessments in conjunction with your paediatrician or psychiatrist. These assessments are conducted by a multidisciplinary team and consist of a parent/caregiver interview, observation of the child at school or day care and administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the gold standard tool in autism assessment.
Read more about getting a diagnosis here: https://www.autismawareness.com.au/diagnosis/children/getting-a-diagnosis
Book an appointment to see our Youthrive team, or learn more here: https://www.youthrive.com.au/services/psychology/
Chloe – Speech Pathologist (North Lakes Discovery)
Brittni – Psychologist (North Lakes Discovery)