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Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name given to describe the wide range of behaviours found within the autistic population. Children with an ASD tend to withdraw from interacting in the world and typically have deficits in three key areas:

Verbal and non-verbal communication such as:

  • a marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviours such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
  • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  • Social awareness and interactions such as:
    • delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes 0f communication such as gesture or mime)
  • in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
  • lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
  • Imaginative play such as:
    • encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
  • apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
  • persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

At one end of the Autism spectrum there are individuals with early infantile autism, childhood autism or Kanner’s autism who are highly affected and have moderate to severely impaired communication skills, social interaction skills and learning abilities. At the other end of the spectrum there are individuals with Asperger’s disorder or high functioning autism. These individuals are least affected with regards to communication and cognitive development yet can be equally impaired socially and imaginatively. Individuals with Asperger’s disorder and high functioning autism generally have reasonable communication skills and average to high intelligence and learning abilities.

Although the treatment of autism varies with each individual there are core elements that will assist a child with ASD and their family. These include behavioural interventions to modify Autistic behaviours therefore helping the child learn functional communication skills, adaptive living skills as well as providing family support. It is also important to give the child exercises that promote brain activity such as reading, play and speech therapy.

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