Last month, Creating Together Staff held 2 information sessions on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), to better equip parents and caregivers with information and resources to better support the children of our communities.
We know ASD is on the rise, and knowledge is key. So, here is some more information from aboutkidshealth.ca, especially for those who were not able to make it to the Information Sessions last month. Should you require any further support or if you’d like to learn more, please reach out to the staff at Creating Together and they would be happy to connect you with resources and support.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a specific set of behavioural and developmental problems and challenges, affecting a child’s communication, social and play skills.
“Spectrum” is used because every child is unique and has their own combination of characteristics that combine to make their own unique profile. As your child grows, the expression of these challenges will change – and usually they have these social / behavioural differences for life.
Characteristics of ASD
Here are a few:
- Shows little response when you call their name, especially if in preschool.
- May not respond when others try to talk or play with them.
- Shows little interest in getting attention from others.
- Doesn’t point with index finger to show what they are interested in.
- Shows a lack of interest in toys or plays with toys in an unusual way.
- May seem moody, irritable, or passive.
- May suddenly change from being very passive to very irritable in a short period of time.
- May have difficulty using eye gaze appropriately in social situations.
Prevalence of ASD
ASD is the most common developmental condition, with one in four people having ASD and four out of five of those being male. It affects people from all parts of the world, every social economic background and race.
Possible causes of ASD
There are no specific known causes of ASD, however current studies suggest it may be related to differences in how the brain develops before birth and during the first few years of life.
In some families, there seems to be a pattern of ASD in more than one member of the family. This suggests there is a genetic basis to ASD. At this time, some specific genes have been directly linked to ASD. In most people, ASD is most likely a result of a complex interaction of several genes. These vary among families, and research is ongoing. We do know:
- ASD is not a mental illness.
- Children with ASD are not unruly kids who choose to misbehave.
- Bad parenting does not cause ASD.
What to do if you think your child has ASD?
If you suspect your child has ASD, book an appointment with the family doctor. They may refer your child to a child psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis of ASD.
Diagnosis of ASD
Diagnosing a child with ASD is complex, because the characteristics change over time as your child develops. Best practices for determining whether a child has ASD include:
- Observing the child.
- Talking to the parents.
- Using standardized assessment tools to document development and behaviour.
There are no lab tests for diagnosing ASD, however some lab tests can be helpful to detect other issues such as low iron (causing anemia). Some children may develop seizures and need an EEG to document brain electrical activity before starting seizure treatment.
There is no medical cure for ASD. However, we are finding ways to help people deal with different characteristics of ASD. With the right treatment, some of the behaviour can be changed. Some medicine can help with low iron levels, with others can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Children respond well to highly structured, specialized education programs that meet the specific needs of the child. They work best one-on-one or in a small group setting. An effective program would be flexible, and able to change over time while teaching the social communication skills the child needs at each stage of their development. Some examples may include:
- Behavioural teaching
- Communication therapy
- Training in social skills development
- Sensory motor therapy