Autism FAQ

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 1:70 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?

  • 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
  • Appropriate activities for the child with autism, especially activities that bring the whole family together
  • Good quality respite care
  • Inclusion in the extended family and in their local community
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