Guide to Autism

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Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that is thought to affect one child out of every 160 children in Australia. According to a recent report by the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders, over 10,500 children in Australia between the ages of 6 and 12 could be affected by autism.
It is often very difficult for parents to deal with and accept the fact that their child is affected by autism, but these parents should know that if autism is diagnosed early on in life its effects on the child can be minimized and, with the right interventions, autistic children can show dramatic improvements.

All about Autism - This Wikipedia page will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about autism, including the common characteristics, causes, screening and diagnosis for this condition
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) - This non-profit organization provides autism related services and has lots of great information on autism for the sufferers, their peers and their family members. Also has a list of great autism related events taking place in Australia.
Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders - Includes autism related information as well as news, reports and calls to action for the Australian community
Prevalence of Autism in Australia (PDF) - Some very well researched information on the prevalence of autism in Australia, autism in Australian children, as well as advice on how to deal with the issue

What is Autism?

Autism is the name given to a spectrum of development disorders and is also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This is a lifelong developmental disability and is usually characterized by difficulties in social interaction, problems with communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests. ASD tends to be more prevalent in boys than in girls.

Types of ASD

The following are some of the various types of ASD:

  • Autistic Disorder (classic autism) - this refers to the most common type of autism where the sufferer usually has difficulties in social interaction, problems with communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests. This is often detected before 3 years of age.
  • Asperger's Disorder (Asperger's syndrome) - People with this disorder have difficulties in social interaction and also restricted and repetitive interests. However they don't display any significant difficulty in language and/or communication skills and neither do they have any significant problems with their cognitive or self-help abilities.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (atypical autism) - These are those individuals who display significant difficulties in social interaction however do not meet the criteria for classical autism or Asperger's syndrome.

Some common characteristics of autism include:

  • Impaired social interaction - A lack of interest in participating in activities with others as well as lacking in social responsiveness
  • Lack of make believe - Most young children spend a lot of time making believe, but this is not the case with autistic children
  • Language problems - Inability to speak at all, only echoing speech, or only very literal speech
  • Unable to initiate or maintain meaningful conversation
  • Displaying distress if there is any change in routine
  • Very restricted interests - Some children may display a preoccupation with a single object, or only lining up specific objects, or only want to know or amass information about a single object

More information on autism and its types in the links below:
What is Autism? - A very brief yet comprehensive article on the basics of autism, the different variances of this disorder, its causes and how it is diagnosed
Autism Association of Westen Australia - This webpage includes some valuable information on autism itself as well as the characteristics and treatments for autism
Autism Partnership Australia - Great information on what autism is, its various types, its characteristics and its prevalence in Australia
Autism ACT - A non-profit organization that is committed to spreading information about autism and related disorders to the families, friends, and colleagues of those with autism as well as the community at large
Autism Speaks - Great website with easy to understand information for parents such as: what is autism? What causes autism? How did my child develop autism? Are vaccines to blame?

How to tell if your Child is Autistic (Symptoms of Autism)

It is extremely difficult for any parent to learn that their beloved child is autistic; however by ignoring clear indications, or by believing that your child might grow out of it you are actually doing more harm to your child than good. Recent studies have proven that taking action early in life can go a long way in reducing the symptoms of autism and improving the quality of your child's life.
The following are just a few of the signs to look out for in babies:

  • Failure to smile at others at approximately 6 months of age
  • No babbling or cooing by 12 months
  • Not saying any single words by 12 months

The following are some red flags:

  • The child does not respond or doesn't seem to recognize his/her name
  • The child avoids eye contact, even with the mother
  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Obsession with specific objects, e.g. one single toy that the child just will not leave
  • Constantly repeats the same action and perhaps going through the same motions again and again, and if any disruption occurs then becomes extremely upset

The following links provide some more helpful signs:
A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders - An excellent article with a list of specific questions based on which you might get a better idea if your child could be autistic. Also contains other helpful information
Detecting Signs of Autism in your Child - This site 'Disabled World Tomorrow' provides helpful information on how to detect autism in a child by listing down certain developmental milestones children should be achieving at specific ages
Autism Symptoms and Early Signs - An extremely comprehensive website covering several topics related to autism in children including: how to monitor your child's development, specific signs of autism in babies and toddlers, signs of autism in older children, what to do if you're worried and more!
Top 10 List of Signs that your Child Might have Autism - A very helpful and quick list you can use to determine if you may need to get your child checked

How Parents should Deal with Autistic Children

So, your child or the child of someone you know has been diagnosed with autism. Although it isn't an easy reality to deal with, you should know that it is entirely up to you whether you're going to let autism get in the way of you enjoying your time parenting your beautiful child.
Some things that can help you to cope:

  • Educate yourself about autism
  • Observe your child closely and figure out what pleases them and what displeases them, what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses
  • Accept your child and everything about him/her; and learn to enjoy their specialness
  • Never give up hope about your child's life! Life is something no one can predict and you may be pleasantly surprised what course your child's life takes

Here are some more great links about parenting an autistic child:
Autism and Your Family - Some great advice for how parents and family members should deal with an autistic child. Also highlights some of the emotions parents undergo upon learning of their child's disability
Parenting a Child with Autism - A brief and to the point article with important facts and suggestions specifically for parents of autistic children. Some important pieces of advice: educate yourself, build a support system and seek help!
Helping Children with Autism - Sound advice for how to cope with autism as a parent and also how to take care of your autistic child
Why is Autism Stressful for Parents? - This article shares some of the real emotions and difficulties parents with autistic children often undergo

Treatments for Autism in Children

The following links provide some important information on treatments for autistic children:
Autism Therapies - A very comprehensive article discussing the history of autism treatments as well as different types of treatments including educational, medicinal and religious
How is Autism Treated? - A brief article discussing early intervention treatments, treatments for toddlers and preschool children and treatments for autistic adults
List of Autism Medications for Children - This is a list of commonly used drugs for treating ASD

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