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    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) World Day

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) World Day

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a range of similar conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect a person’s social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
    In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three.
    It’s estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.
    There’s no “cure” for ASD, but speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions are available to help children and parents.

    Signs and symptoms

    People with ASD tend to have problems with social interaction and communication.
    In early infancy, some children with ASD don’t babble or use other vocal sounds. Older children have problems using non-verbal behaviours to interact with others – for example, they have difficulty with eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures. They may give no or brief eye contact and ignore familiar or unfamiliar people.
    Children with ASD may also lack awareness of and interest in other children. They’ll often either gravitate to older or younger children, rather than interacting with children of the same age. They tend to play alone.
    They can find it hard to understand other people’s emotions and feelings, and have difficulty starting conversations or taking part in them properly. Language development may be delayed, and a child with ASD won’t compensate their lack of language or delayed language skills by using gestures (body language) or facial expressions.
    Children with ASD will tend to repeat words or phrases spoken by others (either immediately or later) without formulating their own language, or in parallel to developing their language skills. Some children don’t demonstrate imaginative or pretend play, while others will continually repeat the same pretend play.
    Some children with ASD like to stick to the same routine and little changes may trigger tantrums. Some children may flap their hand or twist or flick their fingers when they’re excited or upset. Others may engage in repetitive activity, such as turning light switches on and off, opening and closing doors, or lining things up.
    Children and young people with ASD frequently experience a range of cognitive (thinking), learning, emotional and behavioural problems. For example, they may also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression.
    About 70% of children with ASD have a non-verbal IQ below 70. Of these, 50% have a non-verbal IQ below 50. Overall, up to 50% of people with “severe learning difficulties” have an ASD.

    Getting a diagnosis

    The main features of ASD – problems with social communication and interaction – can often be recognised during early childhood.
    Some features of ASD may not become noticeable until a change of situation, such as when the child starts nursery or school.
    See your GP or health visitor if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of ASD in your child, or if you’re concerned about your child’s development. It can also be helpful to discuss your concerns with your child’s nursery or school.

    Caring for someone with ASD

    Being a carer isn’t an easy role. When you’re busy responding to the needs of others, it can affect your emotional and physical energy, and make it easy to forget your own health and mental wellbeing.
    If you’re caring for someone else, it’s important to look after yourself and get as much help as possible. It’s in your best interests and those of the person you care for.

    What causes ASD?

    The exact cause of ASD is unknown, but it’s thought that several complex genetic and environmental factors are involved.
    In the past, some people believed the MMR vaccine caused ASD, but this has been investigated extensively in a number of major studies around the world, involving millions of children, and researchers have found no evidence of a link between MMR and ASD.

    Symptoms

    The main features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are problems with social communication and interaction.

    See your GP or health visitor if you notice any of the following signs of ASD in your child or if you’re concerned about your child’s development.

    1. Signs of ASD in pre-school children
    • Spoken language
      delayed speech development (for example, speaking less than 50 different words by the age of two), or not speaking at all
      frequent repetition of set words and phrases
      speech that sounds very monotonous or flat
      preferring to communicate using single words, despite being able to speak in sentences
    • Responding to others
      not responding to their name being called, despite having normal hearing
      rejecting cuddles initiated by a parent or carer (although they may initiate cuddles themselves)
      reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else
    • Interacting with others
      not being aware of other people’s personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space
      little interest in interacting with other people, including children of a similar age
      not enjoying situations that most children of their age like, such as birthday parties
      preferring to play alone, rather than asking others to play with them
      rarely using gestures or facial expressions when communicating
      avoiding eye contact
    • Behaviour
      having repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking their fingers
      playing with toys in a repetitive and unimaginative way, such as lining blocks up in order of size or colour, rather than using them to build something
      preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to this routine
      having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour of the food as much as the taste
      unusual sensory interests – for example, children with ASD may sniff toys, objects or people inappropriately
    1. Signs and symptoms of ASD in school-age children
    • Spoken language
      preferring to avoid using spoken language
      speech that sounds very monotonous or flat
      speaking in pre-learned phrases, rather than putting together individual words to form new sentences
      seeming to talk “at” people, rather than sharing a two-way conversation
    • Responding to others
      taking people’s speech literally and being unable to understand sarcasm, metaphors or figures of speech
      reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else
    • Interacting with others
      not being aware of other people’s personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space
      little interest in interacting with other people, including children of a similar age, or having few close friends, despite attempts to form friendships
      not understanding how people normally interact socially, such as greeting people or wishing them farewell
      being unable to adapt the tone and content of their speech to different social situations – for example, speaking very formally at a party and then speaking to total strangers in a familiar way
      not enjoying situations and activities that most children of their age enjoy
      rarely using gestures or facial expressions when communicating
      avoiding eye contact
    • Behaviour
      repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking their fingers
      playing in a repetitive and unimaginative way, often preferring to play with objects rather than people
      developing a highly specific interest in a particular subject or activity
      preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to their normal routine
      having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour of the food as much as the taste
      unusual sensory interests – for example, children with ASD may sniff toys, objects or people inappropriately
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