If you think your child has autism, or if you have a new diagnosis for your child, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. There are supports available for your child and your family. When it comes to autism, early intervention is key.
What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder, which is more prevalent in males than females, affecting approximately 1 in 100 people. Evidence shows early intervention (delivered within a program that meets the 2012 Australian Good Practice Guidelines) makes a difference to a child’s development. Early intervention helps them to develop important skills that will encourage independence, the ability to communicate and opportunities for inclusion. While there’s no ‘cure’ for autism, there is hope.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism is part of a spectrum that is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Individuals with the condition often have unique abilities and skills. However, for these to be realised, the disabling aspects of autism need to be overcome. Early intervention is key to achieving this.
People with autism usually share challenges in two main areas; however, their condition can affect them differently. Some people are able to live independent lives while others may require ongoing specialist support and care.
The two main areas of difficulty include:
- Social interaction and social communication, including difficulty with body language and verbal communication, reciprocal conversation, emotional and social reciprocity and managing structured parts of the day; and
- Restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviours or interests, including rituals and routines, and difficulty with hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to sensory input.
If you’re concerned your child isn’t developing typically, it’s important to investigate this with a trusted medical or health professional. If your child does have autism, an early diagnosis will ensure your child and family can access appropriate supports, giving your child the best chance to develop essential life skills and reach their full potential.
Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder
National Guidelines for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Australia highlight that ASD can be diagnosed by any trained health professionals who observes an individual for specific behaviours relating to social communication and restricted/repetitive behaviours and interests.
Most commonly, children are assessed by a paediatrician on referral from a general practitioner (GP). Children can be assessed and diagnosed from a very early age—sometimes even under the age of two. Generally, expected developmental milestones guide when parents choose to consult with a GP.
While it is a lifelong condition, with early intervention, many children can develop the ability to communicate, learn self-help and academic skills, and improve fine and gross motor skills.
If you think your child has autism, or if you are concerned about how they are developing, it’s important to speak to a trusted medical professional. A paediatrician or clinical psychologist can assess and diagnosis your child. You will need a referral from your General Practitioner.
Early intervention is essential and will give your child the best opportunity to develop the skills they need to reach their full potential.
Once you have a diagnosis, you can choose a service provider which offers your family the support your need. If you are in an area operating under the NDIS, AEIOU can help you with the process you need to register as a participant and to access a plan and funding supports.
This editorial was supplied by AEIOU Foundation for Children with Autism. Now in its 15th year of operation, AEIOU enrols more than 300 children throughout the service each year. To find out if there is a centre near you, and to access support to navigate the NDIS, visit www.aeiou.org.au. You can also visit a local centre, with open days taking place throughout the year, starting on 24 March 2020. To find out more about their services, visit www.aeiou.org.au or call 1300 273 435
*This editorial appeared in our print issue 39, April/May 2020