Characteristics of Autism
Autism (ASD) is a neuro-developmental condition with varying of levels of severity. The range of characteristics commonly linked with autism include:
challenges communicating and socially interacting with others
restricted or repetitive behaviours, moving one’s body in unusual ways
a strong interest in one topic, subject or behaviour
significant reactions to what is sensory stimuli (what is seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted)
a strong preferences for routine, along with dislike for change
Despite these common features, people with ASD are highly unique, and no two individuals will have the same characteristics, challenges, personality and preferences.
It can be difficult for people with ASD to express their emotions and needs. Even when a person has good verbal language skills, there may be difficulty with grammar, vocabulary, constructing meaningful sentences, understanding certain words.
There may be a tendency to or interpret communications literally, or not understanding them at all. The emotions of other people can be difficult to understand.
Some individuals with ASD may appear disinterested in others, or unsure of how to engage in conversation and other social interactions. They may have difficulty using or interpreting non-verbal communication including eye contact, gestures and facial expressions, or may appear unaware or disinterested in the experiences and emotions of other people. Therefore, iIt can be extremely challenging to establish and maintain friendships for some individuals with ASD. The social difficulties experienced by people with ASD may result in some people withdrawing and becoming isolated, while others may put in significant efforts to try to be social, but have difficulty understanding why there are attempts often do not work as hoped.
Assessment and Diagnosis
There is no single medical or psychological test for diagnosing autism. Instead, autism is diagnosed through observation by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals including a paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist and speech pathologist ro occupational therapist.
Some children show signs of autism very early, by the age of two years of age. Others may be diagnosed when they are older. The earlier autism is diagnosed the sooner therapy can begin. This important because it has been shown that early intervention improves outcomes for children with ASD.
Diagnosing autism is often very complex and can complicated by other problems including comorbid disorders such as ADHD, anxiety and OCD, and parent-child attachment problems.
At Poulton Respondek Clinical Psychology (PRCP) we work collaboratively with other health professionals in the assessment and diagnosis of ASD. The referral pathway is generally through your G.P. who will then refer your child to a paediatrician. PRCP can continue to work collaboratively with other health professionals who form your child's support network in the provision of treatment.
There are a variety of interventions and treatment approaches for the difficulties associated with ASD. At PRCP, our treatments are evidence-based and designed to increase those social, emotional and behavioural capacities that are most closely associated with increased social participation, academic success and overall psychological wellbeing. Treatment programs are individually tailored to the needs of the child and his or her family.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides funding for most children who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for the purpose of receiving psychological treatment.