Autism comes under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is the most common developmental disorder. Autism symptoms appear early in a child’s development, but the symptoms vary in severity for each case. For example, one individual may be very high in their speech abilities and have above average intelligence (high functioning), whilst another individual with Autism may be have very low speech abilities and intelligence (low functioning).
Generally, the difficulties individuals with Autism face are categorised into three areas:
1. Verbal and non-verbal communication: Speech can vary from none at all to normal levels of speech, however individuals with sufficient levels may find it difficult to communicate exactly what they want to say, e.g. they may repeat the statements of another person (‘echolalia’), talk about a topic of interest for a long time without awareness that others have lost interest, or mention irrelevant topics that do not fit in with conversation. Maintaining eye contact is another difficulty.
2. Social awareness and interaction: this is another aspect of Autism in which individuals may have difficulty abiding social rules, possibly making them appear unfriendly. Not looking at a person whilst they are speaking, touching or even licking others and making impolite comments are a few examples.
3. Extreme interest in a particular area: having a keen interest in a specific thing is very common in Autism, as well as avoiding common social activities such as hugging a parent or being irritated by menial things such as the feeling of a tag on the shirt and insisting all tags get cut off.
Having a child with these symptoms can be very difficult to manage both emotionally and physically. The overwhelming responsibility you have to take to monitor their behaviours and try to improve them can often leave parents feeling inadequate, or just completely drained. If this is the case, you are not alone. This is a normal reaction experienced by many parents with kids that have symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is important to be able to take care of yourself so that you can be a better support and still enjoy your experiences within your family.
If you are not coping and the stress of having a child with autism has been impairing your functioning, it may be time to seek help. Our psychologists are specialised in assisting in this area in a number of ways, including:
- Provide you with and understanding of your child’s autism traits and the manner in which these present and may cause difficulties for your child
- With a greater understanding of your child’s autism traits, we can support you in managing your child’s behaviour within the home environment
- Provide you with an understanding of possible triggers for your child’s meltdowns and methods to manage and reduce your child’s distress
- Assist your child in recognising emotions and developing emotional regulation strategies
- Help your child to develop appropriate social and conversational skills so they can initiate and maintain friendships
- Support you and your family in utilising the strategies tailored for your child outside of the sessions
If you think a family member may have autism but they have never received a diagnosis, an assessment with a qualified practitioner is recommended. There are two assessment tools that VCPS practitioners use to assess and diagnose autism spectrum disorders across ages, developmental levels and language skills. The assessment process is designed to elicit behaviours directly related to ASD and covers the areas of communication, social interaction, restricted and repetitive behaviours and play. These assessments gain information that can inform diagnosis, treatment planning and educational recommendations.