Thu. Jun 20th, 2019

World Autism Awareness Day: What you need to know

The twelfth annual World Autism Awareness Day is observed on 2 April 2019.

The post World Autism Awareness Day: What you need to know appeared first on The South African.

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According to Autism Speaks, individuals, health professionals and the international community partake in raising awareness around Autism.

Landmarks, homes, statues and buildings around the world will be shrouded in blue today in recognition of people living with autism.

The annual World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognised day on 2 April which aims to put the spotlight on the obstacles that people with autism face on a daily basis.

The month of April is used to increase understanding and acceptance around Autism. Events and educational activities take place all month to foster worldwide support.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo lit blue for World Autism Awareness Day

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorders – also referred to as “being on the spectrum” – incorporate a vast range of disorders previously diagnosed separately.

We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes. These include “classic” autism, as well as Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorders not specified (PDD-NOS).

Autism is a development disorder linked to early brain development. It is characterised by difficulties with social interaction and communication from around the age of three. The causes are not clear, although genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role.

Moreover, mental health professionals emphasise that ASD is not a psychological, emotional or behavioural disorder. In the past, children with autism were inaccurately labelled as “just badly behaved”. Autism is a brain-based, neuro-psychiatric condition that requires treatment and support.

ASD results in difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, sensory perception (either heightened or lowered sense of touch, taste, smell, sight or hearing), and patterns of narrow interests, cognitive (thought) patterns and repetitive behaviours.

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Photo: Envato Elements

Types of autism

Symptoms usually appear during the first three years – some children show signs since birth, while others show symptoms suddenly around the ages of 18 to 36 months.

Following are the disorders which are classified under umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder:

  • Autistic disorder: Communication and social interactions problems are some of the symptoms.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder: This kind of autism affects children, where children lose most of their communication and social skills around the age of two. This disorder is quite rare.
  • Asperger’s syndrome: Children with Asperger’s also experience problems with communication and social interactions. They have a limited scope of interests, but they don’t face any problems with language. They score as much as average or above average students.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder: Similar to typical autism. This disorder is for children who experience some autistic behaviours, but they don’t fit into any of the above categories of autism spectrum disorder.
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Photo: Envato Elements

Signs of Autism

The timing and intensity of autism’s early signs also vary widely. While some children show signs around the age of 18 months, other children won’t show any symptoms at all.

Professional evaluation is crucial, but the following signs may indicate whether your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder.

If your child exhibits any of the following, ask your paediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible.

By 6 months

  • Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
  • Limited or no eye contact

By 9 months

  • Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months

  • Little or no babbling
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
  • Little or no response to name

By 16 months

  • Very few or no words

By 24 months

  • Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age

  • Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Persistent preference for solitude
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
  • Delayed language development
  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Restricted interests
  • Repetitive behaviours such as flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colours.

Watch: “Learn the Signs”

The post World Autism Awareness Day: What you need to know appeared first on The South African.

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