Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Picture of Renee Collins

Renee Collins

Clinical Director

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder. It’s a broad diagnosis and will affect each individual with ASD differently! Current data indicate that 1:50 children are affected by ASD worldwide (CDC, 2013). It is characterized by differences in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours. To be diagnosed autistic, the individual’s symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but it may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life). Symptoms must also cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning. Finally, these disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of ASD and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that individuals with ASD can experience a wide range of symptoms and abilities. Whilst ASD is not a mental health problem or intellectual disability, these challenges may also be present.

There is currently no known cause of autism. Research suggests ASD results from changes to brain growth and development, which may be influenced by genetic factors. Whilst research for causes is still ongoing, we are more confident in what does not cause autism – parenting, social circumstances, vaccines or other medical treatments are certainly not to blame! 

Diagnosing Autism

The characteristics of autism usually start in infancy, but may not be noticeable until the age of 2 or 3 years. Sometimes ASD is diagnosed much later in life. Ideally, however, ASD should be diagnosed early, as research shows early detection and intervention can decrease risk of bullying, abuse, mental health difficulties and social challenges. Conversely, early intervention facilitates communication, social interaction and independence, and draws out the many strengths and interests of people with ASD. Diagnosis is sometimes difficult and can be less reliable for children younger than age 2, as there is no conclusive medical test like blood test that can confirm ASD. A paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist can provide a diagnosis by reviewing the individual’s developmental history and behaviour. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)  provides standardized criteria to help diagnose ASD.

Intervention and therapy options for Autism

  1. Early intensive behavioural intervention: Behavioural approaches focus on developing helpful behaviours and skills and decreasing unhelpful or dangerous behaviours (e.g. self-injury) by understanding what happens before and after behaviour. Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is a common, evidence-based example of a behavioural treatment, and the one adopted here at Super Kids!
  2. Developmental: Developmental approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills. The most common examples would be Speech and Language Therapy (to improve understanding use of communication strategies) and Occupational Therapy (to improve independent living in areas such as dressing, eating, hygiene and relating to others).
  3. Pharmacological/Medication: There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of ASD. Some medications treat co-occurring symptoms that can help people with ASD function better. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behaviour, such as head banging or hand biting.
  4. Psychological: Psychological approaches can help people with ASD cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one psychological approach where the therapist works together with the individual to identify goals and then change how the person thinks about a situation to in turn change how they react to and feel about the situation.

Where to go from here?

  1. Below are some helpful resources with more information about autism. You can also explore our Super Kids website for more information on autism, Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the different services we offer, guidance on whether intervention is needed, and answers to commonly asked questions. 

0422 457 363

9/56 Buffalo Rd, Gladesville NSW , 2111

0422 457 363

9/56 Buffalo Rd, Gladesville NSW , 2111

Super Kids acknowledges each individual’s personal preference to use identity-first or person-first language to describe themselves or their loved one. We interchangeably use both language conventions and therefore refer to both Autistic children and children with Autism.