What is Autism?
Autism is a complex range of conditions characterised by difficulties in communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviours.
An autism diagnosis can mean many and varied challenges and every child presents with a unique set of developmental difficulties.
Whatever your child’s particular needs, positive outcomes can be achieved with an intensive, early intervention approach. The first step is obtaining a professional assessment and diagnosis.
Recognising signs of autism in your child is the first step in leading to the appropriate referrals for diagnosis and treatment. If you are concerned that your child may be showing signs of autism, speak to your GP immediately. They should then refer your child to a developmental paediatrician or to see a multidisciplinary team at your local assessment centre.
There are many resources available for parents and caregivers to find out more about autism and its diagnosis. The following is a list of some reputable sources of information.
An online screening tool, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers or M-CHAT can help identify if your concerns warrant further investigation.
The Autism Awareness website has more information about the pathway to an autism diagnosis and diagnostic criteria.
Formal diagnosis of autism is in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM5). For an explanation of the most recent criteria see DSM-5: changes to autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (Raising Children Network), and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria (Autism Speaks).
A range of helpful information about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can be found on the Raising Children Network website. The Australian Autism Handbook 2nd Edition offers guidance, expert advice and support for parents of children with ASD.
Good news – children with ASD can learn!
The good news is that children on the autism spectrum can learn and be independent. Early Intensive Intervention programs using the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) have been shown to address the characteristics of autism. In fact, ABA is the only intervention method with established research to show positive outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders.