Children and Autism
Autism is the term used when a child experiences communication and developmental difficulties that make it hard to understand the world around them.
Autism is one of several disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD. Others include Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder. It is estimated that ASD affects up to 1 in 70 children.
ASD characteristics can range from narrow interests, developmental delay, lack of social and communication skills, and inability to recognise social cues. A child with ASD may often perform repetitive behaviours or movements, have difficulty dealing with large groups or crowds of people and can be sensitive to bright light or loud noises.
People with Autism can struggle with social interactions, have difficulty with speech and comprehension of words and have trouble dealing with changes in their environment. The scale of difficulty that children with ASD can experience may vary from minor to severe. With the right support, many children with ASD can live relatively normal lives.
It is hugely beneficial for parents to normalise ASD as early as possible and create awareness for their child, other family and household members, and their child’s peers to provide understanding and patience to help the child navigate situations and settings they may find challenging.
ASD can sometimes be identified in the first two years of a child’s life. However, early signs can manifest when they are a toddler. Parents know their child best, and by observing their child’s social skills, development and communication, they can be the most vital key in identifying early signs of autism. Consultation with your GP and assessment of age-appropriate milestones can assist with early diagnosis of autism-related behaviours. See the following link for a guideline on milestones:
Signs that your child could be affected may include lack of eye contact, difficulty communicating, repetitive behaviours, inability to cope with changes to their surroundings, sensitivities to touch and also to light and noise, and lack of understanding in social and interpersonal interactions. It is also common for a child on the spectrum to take turns of speech quite literally rather than deduce the different context.
ASD can affect a child's development very differently, and the markers that are present in one child can vary greatly from the next. If parents are concerned about their child, they should seek the advice of their child’s doctor and request a developmental assessment. Following is a link to a site with some helpful information for parents that believe their child may have autism:
The earlier the detection, the sooner the child’s parents and their health professionals can assess how much support the child needs and can assess their abilities. Access to early intervention services can help them participate in normal activities and attend school. In turn, this will significantly improve the child’s quality of life long-term.
Sometimes medications may be prescribed to assist and minimise or treat associated symptoms such as hyperactivity, seizures, anxiety or possibly depression. Other alternative therapies are also available. Diet and nutrition and vitamin treatments may also help.
Above all else, education is key. Parents of children with ASD, gathering information and learning as much as possible about your child’s condition can give you a deeper understanding of your child’s individual needs and how you can best help them. It can also help to calm your concerns and empower you with the tools you need to confidently guide your child and your family, through the challenges that you face together.
Creating a support network is also vital. Many communities and online groups and forums create a space where parents of an ASD child can receive support and assistance to help them and their child adjusting to their life following diagnosis.
Making time for yourself and your relationship if you are partnered is also an essential aspect of managing ASD in your home. Ensuring you continue to do things you enjoy and taking time out for yourself can be a great source of stress relief. Caring for a child with autism can be stressful, and help is available to you if you are struggling with depression or are feeling overwhelmed. Talk to your GP for a referral to a professional who can support you in this.
Following are some links to other resources which you may find helpful: