Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities.
These behaviours often manifest in an intense and focused interest in a particular subject matter; stereotyped body movements like hand flapping and spinning; and an unusual and heightened sensitivity to everyday sounds or textures.
People with ASD experience difficulties with social interaction and impaired and unusual verbal and non-verbal communication.
The word spectrum reflects the wide range of challenges that people with an ASD experience and the extent to which they may be affected. An estimated one in 100 Australians has an ASD, or 230,000 people. It is four times more common in boys than girls.
The quality of life for many children and adults can be significantly improved by an early diagnosis and appropriate evidence informed treatment. (Source: Aspect Australia Website)
Psychological treatments for Asperger’s, Autism and related disorders should include teaching social skills, reducing problem behaviours and promoting positive behaviours. Some children will also require specialised motor, sensory and communication skills training which is generally provided by occupational, physical and/or speech therapists.
Social-skills training targets social development, imitation skills, and teaches children how to establish and maintain engagement with others. This is done by focusing on improving their conversation and interaction skills and teaching them how to make friends, be a good sport, and respond appropriately to teasing.
Problem and challenging behaviours such as emotional outbursts, tantrums and aggression are addressed with both parent strategies and activities aimed to help children better understand and manage their own feelings and sensory needs.
Treatment planning is done in conjunction with families after a thorough assessment which generally includes discussions with the family, Paediatricians, GPs, teachers and the child. If not already, it is recommended that families connect with a Paediatrician or Specialist Child Psychiatrist in order to provide ongoing management of these Disorders through childhood and adolescence. These specialists can provide Psychologist referrals in addition to GPs.
Living Well Psychology has three Clinical Psychologists with an interest in and experience of working with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum.
For more information about ASD visit the Aspect Australia website: http://www.autismspectrum.org.au