Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is classified as a developmental disability that is defined by disruptions in social interaction, as well as atypical behaviour and interests. It is generally accepted that ASD is caused by deviations in our brain’s neuroanatomy. 

As a result, people with ASD tend to handle communication, social interaction and learning behaviour in ways that differ from the norm. However, not all cases of ASD are the same; it should be noted that the capabilities of a person with ASD can vary greatly based on circumstance and severity of symptoms. 

For example, certain people with ASD can have proficient conversation skills, while others may have what is known as nonverbal autism. 

People with ASD of all ages may struggle to develop and maintain friends, communicate with peers and adults, and comprehend people's perceptions of situations. As they grow older, Individuals with ASD may come to the attention of medical professionals if they often show signs of anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which affect persons with ASD more frequently than those without ASD.

Hence, being able to identify these signs early and starting intervention as soon as possible (especially during childhood) will allow the individual to learn life skills and apply them as they grow up.

What are the signs and symptoms of autism?

Signs and symptoms of autism differ from child to child. Even if your child may show signs of ASD, it does not necessarily mean your child has autism. It is advised to take them to a mental health professional for a formal diagnosis.

Some of the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Social communication issues:
    • Doesn’t respond to his/her name
    • Doesn’t initiate or difficulty interacting with others
    • Reduced eye contact
  • Repetitive behaviours such as:
    • Repeats words or phrases
    • Hand flapping, body rocking, tiptoeing
    • Lining up toys or playing inappropriately with toys
  • Developmental delay
  • Inflexible routines and difficulty with unexpected change
  • Hyper- or hypo-sensitive to light, touch, sound, or smell
  • Intense and highly focused interests

How is Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed?

At present, there is no medical test available that can be used to diagnose ASD. To determine a diagnosis, doctors or clinical psychologists take a look at the child’s behaviours and developmental stage.

A comprehensive evaluation can be done by a multidisciplinary team of medical and allied health professionals, which may include:

  • A developmental paediatrician
  • A clinical psychologist
  • An audiologist
  • A speech therapist
  • An occupational therapist

It is sometimes challenging to distinguish ASD from global developmental at a younger age. However, ASD can be identified as early as 18 months, while a diagnostic evaluation can usually be done at the age of 2.

Children with ASD symptoms can greatly benefit from early detection and intervention as it allows them to learn important skills that encourage positive development.

What are the interventions and treatments available for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Currently, there is no known cure for ASD. However, there are several effective interventions that can help improve a child’s functioning. These interventions are aimed to decrease children’s inappropriate behaviours and improve their daily functioning skills. Treatment plans for ASD are usually multidisciplinary and may involve parents.

Some of the available interventions and treatments are:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Occupational therapy / Sensory Integration
  • Parent management training

There are also tips that caregivers can learn to make caring for someone with ASD easier such as:

  • Learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Being patient and focusing on the positive
  • Providing consistent structure and routine
  • Connecting with other parents of children with autism
  • Seeking professional help for specific concerns
  • Taking care of yourself and getting balance in your life

Our MINDCENTRIC mental health specialists at ParkCity Medical Centre (PMC) will carefully lead you through the available treatments and interventions available using their many years of experience. You have a wider option of therapy for mental illness at PMC, from counselling to medication and other services that our mental health specialists deem appropriate.

Meet our Specialist

Dr Susan Tan Mooi Koon

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Ms Tan Pei Jun

Clinical Psychologist, Unit Head

Ms Loo Mei Chien

Clinical Psychologist