What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised (according to the DSM 5) as “…persistent deficits in social communication, social interaction and behaviours that are restrictive, stereotypical and repetitive.” These deficits occur together and are also known as the triad of impairment. They are ongoing from early childhood and persist over the lifespan. Symptoms range from mild to severe and this implies that the presentation of ASD will differ from individual to individual, which makes assessing and diagnosing ASD a complex process.
What is High Functioning Autism?
High Functioning Autism is not an official diagnosis and it is often referred to individuals with milder symptoms of autism. Individuals with milder symptoms of autism have better developed adaptive daily-living skills and may not have delays in language development. This implies that their symptoms of autism may be subtle but their emotional struggles are intense. They are often misunderstood and misjudged in their social circles, which makes developing and maintaining friendships a struggle for them. This affects their self-esteem and are therefore prone to developing co-occurring disorders (i.e. depression, social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder). Adults with mild autism symptoms are usually able to hold a job but may come across as socially awkward. This may also result in them feeling overwhelmed and thereby have difficulties coping in socially demanding situations at work.
When should I decide to assess my child?
According to research, toddlers as young as 18 months may be diagnosed with ASD and this allows for them to receive early intervention. ASD should be assessed as soon as parents and teachers observe a persistent pattern of behaviours (i.e. social isolation, social awkwardness, repetitive behaviours that are unusual, lacking eye-contact, heightened sensitivity to environmental elements) that interfere with daily functioning. ASD may be assessed at various points of one’s life depending on the issues surrounding the individual and purpose of assessment.
How is ASD diagnosed?
In order to efficiently bridge developmental gaps, it is recommended that ASD is assessed and diagnosed before 3 years old. Research has shown that early intervention improves the prognosis of ASD symptoms.
An ASD diagnosis requires astute clinical evaluations from a range of professionals such as developmental paediatricians, psychologists, speech and language pathologists as well as occupational therapists. The process of diagnosis requires observations made at home and/ or school, use of diagnostic observation tools (i.e. ADOS), thorough clinical interview (i.e. ADI) and cognitive tests where possible. Combined with evaluations from other experienced professionals, interventions are then tailored to the needs of the child. Recommendations are also made for schooling options.
What are the available interventions for ASD?
Depending on the needs of the individual, ASD interventions differ in purpose and relevance. Younger children and children with more severe symptoms of ASD will require highly structured and behavioural forms of intervention (i.e. ABA, TEACCH). Children with ASD will also benefit from being taught social thinking tools.
At The Center for Psychology, we cater to the needs of older children with ASD, who may benefit from cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), an evidence-based and structured approach to treating depression and anxiety in individuals with milder symptoms of ASD. We also cater to the needs of higher functioning teenagers and adults with ASD who will also benefit from CBT. Interventions are usually integrated with developing their social thinking skills. Other forms of therapy may be explored depending on the needs of the individual.
What about care-giver support?
We appreciate the stress and overwhelming emotions that care-givers of individuals with ASD withstand. At The Center for Psychology, we offer care-givers’ support and parenting skills while working in tandem with older children.
To find out more, call us at 6733 2893 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to furnish you with the information that you need.