Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormalities/challenges in social skills, verbal & non verbal communication and unusual /repetitive behaviors and interests. It typically has an onset in the preschool years, but some symptoms can even be present in a child of 2 years or so. ASD is defined as a spectrum disorder because its symptoms, abilities, and characteristics are expressed in many different combinations and in any degree of severity.
Common signs & symptoms:
- Failure to initiate or sustain social conversations
- Inability to make eye contact
- Failure to follow the gestures when you point things out
- Have narrow interests and activities
- React atypically to sights, textures, smell and sounds.
- An urge to follow patterns and routines.
- Unusual repetitive actions and movements of a part or whole body eg, rocking back-forth, flapping hands etc.
- Delayed speech and atypical speech patterns eg. repeating a word/sound
- Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches etc.
Do you recognise some of these symptoms in your child? Diagnosis is possible as early as 2 years. Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a popular tool of standardised assessment. Early interventions with a good mix of behaviour therapy, social skills training and if required special education can help individuals with ASD achieve near normal functioning depending on the severity of the symptoms.