Awareness and Action
Characteristics you might observe in an individual on the autism spectrum include: limited eye contact, difficulty with social relationships, speech delays, or physical behaviours such as rocking, finger flicking or toe walking. These are a just a few examples of early indicators of autism spectrum disorders that warrant further investigation. More information about early indicators of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can be found by following the Early Indicators link. If you observe possible indicators in someone you know, it is recommended that you seek further evaluation.
Developmental screening is one of the first tools used to identify children who should receive more intensive assessment or diagnosis. It includes a short test to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should, or if they might have delays. Developmental screening for detection of children at risk is available through your physician or by contacting the Child Development Programme.
Specific screening for early indicators of autism spectrum disorders is available for toddlers as young as 18 months of age by contacting BASE. Screening tools differ from diagnosis in that they provide an initial assessment to determine the need for further referral.
Diagnosing ASDs can be difficult, since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behaviour and development to make a diagnosis. Diagnosis and follow-up appointments are offered through the Autism Clinic at Child and Adolescent Services (239-6344) and are covered by medical insurance. Alternatively, diagnosis is available at various overseas clinics and may be covered in part or full by insurance. A waiting list of six months to a year is not uncommon in many overseas clinics.
Research indicates that early identification and intensive intervention for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children on the autism spectrum. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social and cognitive skills. Because of the spectrum nature of autism and the many behaviour combinations which can occur, no one approach is effective for all individuals.
Various types of interventions are available, including (but not limited to):
- applied behavior analysis
- auditory integration training
- dietary interventions
- discrete trial teaching
- music therapy
- occupational therapy
- PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
- physical therapy
- sensory integration
- speech-language therapy
- structured teaching (TEACCH)
- verbal behavior
- vision therapy