Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism is a medical diagnosis. They are terms used to identify a group of individuals who have persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across environments. Many individuals with this diagnosis also have restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour such as intense interests in various topics such as dinosaurs or space. Autism often presents itself during the first three years of a child’s life; although many children receive a diagnosis once they get to school and some receive a diagnosis as teens or adults.
People assigned a diagnosis of ASD may also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things which requires that parents, teachers and caregivers help support their learning. Individuals with a diagnosis of ASD are capable of learning and succeeding when the people in their world both help them and learn from them.
The signs of ASD begin during early childhood may include:
- as an infant, not responding to smiling from caregivers
- not pointing at objects to show interest (for example, not pointing to an airplane flying over)
- not sharing joint attention
- not responding to social overtures from peers or caregivers
- engagement in repetitive activities or intense interest in topics
- difficulties with imaginative play with toys
- having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
What’s important to remember is that Autism includes a wide spectrum. Many children with ASD are gifted and a proportion of children have intellectual disabilities. Every person is unique in our world, and this includes individuals diagnosed as having ASD.
How Common Is Autism in Children?
In March 2018, the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS) released the most up-to-date Canadian prevalence rate: 1 in 66 Canadian children and youth (ages 5-17) are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This includes 1in 42 males and 1 in 165 females. A link to this report is available here.
Early Intervention Helps!
Research has shown repeatedly that early intervention services can greatly improve development of certain skills by the age of 6. Early intervention services includes services to help a child improve their language and communication, social and play skills, early learning (preparation for kindergarten), and group participation. For that reason, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has an ASD.
Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, they would benefit from services to foster skill development.
At Therapy in a Bin, our passion is providing parents and professionals with products to help deliver those services and to help all children develop to their fullest capacity.