What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? This is a serious developmental disorder which impacts the nervous system and impairs the ability to communicate and interact with others.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a serious developmental disorder which impacts the nervous system and impairs the ability to communicate and interact with others. Common symptoms include obsessive interests, difficulty with social interactions, repetitive behaviour, and difficulty communicating. Autism occurs all over the world in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. According to Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), one in every seventy Australians currently has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
How do I know if my child has Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism can be diagnosed in children as young as two years of age, with proactive screening of younger siblings of children already diagnosed starting at one. There are three levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder (levels one, two and three) which increase in severity. The symptoms of ASD can be subtle, especially with level one, so the symptoms may not be apparent until a child starts school.
The symptoms to look out for are:
- Intense focus on one item
- No eye contact or very poor eye contact
- Repetitive movements
- Lack of understanding of social cues (vocal tone and body language)
- Self-abusive behaviour
- Delay in learning to speak
- Abnormal posture and facial expression
- Deficit in language comprehension
- Difficulty expressing their needs (may resort to screaming or crying)
A comprehensive checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder can be found on the website of Strategic Psychology of Canberra for downloading. If this checklist raises any concerns, please investigate further by contacting your General Practitioner or Psychology professional to seek an assessment.
My child has ASD. What resources are available to help me?
The sheer number of books, websites, online groups, newsletters, and other resources available can be overwhelming. Determining which resources are genuinely helpful can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Each person is unique and it is the same with each person with ASD, they all have different strengths, aspirations, and challenges in their lives.
Once you have a diagnosis of ASD, then the first thing you may need to look for is financial assistance for current and future care. The two current funding options are:
Helping Children with Autism (HCWA), and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Please be aware that there may also be additional benefits available through Medicare or Centrelink. The Autism Awareness Australia website also lists a range of other rebates and services available which is well worth checking out.
Educational resources play a vital role in dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder. There is not only the need to educate parents and the autistic person but also any siblings and other family members too. Fact sheets are a great way to learn more about ASD and can be downloaded from websites. There is a comprehensive selection available from Autism Spectrum Australia, Amaze, and Autism Awareness Australia. For more information about ASD in the Newcastle area please check out ConnectAbility Australia. This organisation also has Fact Sheets available for many other disabilities and disorders as they are a registered provider under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
There are many support websites and groups for people with ASD and their families in Australia. A great place to start your search is with the Autism Community Network (ACN). This site lists Australia-wide, NSW, and local organisations and includes links to all of the groups mentioned. When looking for local support groups please remember to check Facebook as this can be a great resource for information and a great place for posting success stories with positive behaviours. Hunter Autism Support Group has a Facebook page packed with information, activities, and even helpful workshops.
A good book to get started with is I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism by Pat Thomas or you may feel that Parenting Without Panic: A Pocket Support Group for Parents of Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum by Brenda Dater may be a better fit. There are even publications on specific subjects such as The Essential Guide to Safe Travel – Training for Children with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities by Dr Desirée Gallimore. If you feel that training for independence in travel and transport will be an important step for your child and they qualify under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), please contact ConnectAbility Australia for assistance with this vital step and for developing a range of domestic and household skills.
ConnectAbility Australia can assist with a full range of disability support services as a registered provider under the NDIS and can be contacted via 02 4962 1000 or via the website at https://www.connectability.org.au.