Hi, I’m Dr. Joe.
In this video we are going to touch on the subject of autism.
Now immediately the definition is important. The term “Autism” has pretty much been replaced by the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” because there is a range of conditions covered under this banner and obviously it starts from the mild autism through to the more severe autism.
The characteristics that lead to a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder are difficulties with social interaction, with communication and also characterised by repetitive behaviours. Immediately some people are going to say ‘some people do have these sorts of problems and there is nothing wrong with them’ and the answer to that is yes, that is the case. So it comes down to the degree with which it affects the individual. It is a condition of childhood but it is thought to be life-long, even though it does seem for a number of children that as they get older the effects lessen. Or perhaps the other way of looking at it is that they find ways to work around it.
For a diagnosis of autism the child needs to demonstrate problems in all three areas that we mentioned (social interaction, communication and behaviour). For diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome there is generally only two of the criteria are met as typically the children don’t have the repetitive movements. The third part of the triad is Perversive Development Disorder where they do have problems with communication and interaction but it doesn’t quite meet the stricter criteria for autism.
It’s all going to sound a little bit complicated and in a video like this we can’t necessarily cater to all the nuances. Nuances is the key word. Some of this is subjective. Some children may just be a little bit late in their development and it may turn out they don’t have any of the autism spectrum disorder conditions. Others, obviously, may well do.
How do you know your child is going down this path? If there was an easy answer to that it would be lovely but realistically there isn’t. There are milestones with child development. Now it’s not set in concrete so some children at age one and a half may be doing what the average 12 month old baby is doing, some children at 18 months may be doing what the average two year old is doing. Children do develop at their own rate so allowances have to be made. It’s not like somebody rings the bell on a certain day and if your child hasn’t achieved “x” milestone therefore they must have a problem. So be aware of those nuances. However, the best people to gauge if there is a problem or there are suspicions are the parents as they have the most interaction with the child. The key hallmark to the autism spectrum disorders are issues with communication and the primary communication is with parents.
Treatment-wise there are no pills, no specific treatment. However, by encouraging the child with support it’s about getting your child to be the best they can be. Interestingly some recent American research has shown that as many as 10% of children with autism spectrum disorder may have effectively by their mid-teens “grown out” of it, or perhaps more correctly have reached a stage where they don’t really have any practical problems with it. People are looking further into this because it raises the question “might it just be developmental delay?” or is something else happening. At this stage there is no known cure and it is deemed to be life-long but this new research is certainly encouraging.
Ok, we have covered a lot of information in a short video and necessarily everybody is a little bit different. If you have any concerns about what’s going on with your child’s development the first port of call is to have a chat with your GP. It doesn’t automatically follow that everything that seems a concern is and that is an important point to make – however, it is always a better idea to get it checked and assessed.

More information

boy_smelling_flower_100x100 For information on Autism, including risk factors, symptoms and possible treatments, visit Autism.