What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that typically appears before age 3. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder as symptoms present in a wide variety of combinations from mild to severe; although typically a diagnosis of Autism includes severe difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, social skills, and imagination.
How Common is it?
Estimates vary but the consensus is that Autism Spectrum Disorders fall somewhere in the range of 1:170 to 1:100. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. There is no known cause but a small percentage of cases are of genetic origin eg. Retts disorder, Fragile X syndrome.
Why is autism so difficult for families to deal with?
- Some children can be completely non-verbal and have no means of communicating
- It’s a largely invisible disability and their child’s unusual behaviour can be isolating
- Anxiety and rigid adherence to routines make family life very restricted
- Heightened sensitivity to sensory input can make normal outings and activities difficult
- Learning what we think of as simple tasks, can take painstaking time and effort
- Children with autism require far more hands-on care and parents are often drafted as therapists
What helps children and families affected by autism?
- Understanding of autism and how it affects families
- Access to best practice early intervention (financial assistance is especially helpful)
- Good respite care and appropriate activities for the child with autism
- Inclusion in the extended family and in their local community