Autism presents as a neuro-developmental disorder. It affects a growing number of children in different ways and is also known as a spectrum disorder involving:
- speech-language delays;
- impaired social interaction;
- sensory integration dysregulation;
- self-stimulatory and ritualistic behaviour; as well as
- other behavioural or mental challenges.
People presenting on the Autism Spectrum can have:
- difficulty interacting with others;
- inappropriate responses to social conversations;
- cannot interpret non-verbal communication; and also
- have difficulty initiating and maintaining friendships appropriate for their age group.
Other challenges include:
- becoming set in and dependent on routines;
- sensitivity to external stimuli;
- difficulty dealing with change;
- oppositional and defiant behaviour when being guided;
- becoming overly interested or fixated on certain topics or objects.
Each level on the Autism Spectrum comes with a variable range of presentation on each level.
According to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is based upon social-communication criteria; restrictive and repetitive behaviour and sensory dysregulation. The diagnosis is further qualified by stating the age of onset, the level of impairment and adding further associated diagnoses, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Epilepsy, Anxiety Disorder or others.
Statistics are variable, but right now, statistics in South Africa elude to a 1:88 incidence. The incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder seems to be increasing rapidly. Although the new DSM diagnosis does not indicate treatment for autism, it does provide diagnostic guidelines that enables the identification of the disorder early on, in order for a prompt optimisation plan to be devised. Where developmental delays are concerned, early intervention is crucial.