What is Autism?

Firstly there are a category of childhood impairments under the title of Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

Children diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s Disorder gain support from a multidisciplinary health care team in their accurate diagnosis, treatment and management programs.

These disorders are characterised by severe deficits and pervasive impairment in multiple areas of development. These include impairments in reciprocal social interaction, impairment in communication, and the presence of stereotyped behaviour, interest and activities. Diagnosis is usually achieved from a consortium of Health Professionals that evaluate the child’s behaviour in various settings from the professionals clinics, the child’s home, kindergarten or educational setting.  The assessment is based on clinical assessments and behavioural observations and rating scales with the child’s family.

These include;

Childhood Autistic Spectrum Disorder or ASD

ASD is demonstrated by gross impairment of

  • reciprocal social interaction (eg. lack of response to other peoples emotions)
  • qualitative impairments in communications (eg. lack of or poorly developed language, stereotyped or idiosyncratic language)
  • restricted, repetitive and stereotyped interest and activities (eg. obsessive preoccupation with routine, timetables, objects, stereotyped body movements, fascinations with spinning or moving objects).

The onset of symptoms and behaviours are usually prior to the age of three years of age and intellectual impairment is frequently involved. 

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is similar to autism in many features but differs from it in that there is no language delay or intellectual impairment.

These conditions are difficult to treat and require ongoing intensive work to achieve even small gains. Overall, the higher the intelligence of the child the better the prognosis.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

This is a diagnostic category given to children who demonstrate pervasive or (difficult to change with treatment) behaviours that are similar to features seen in some characteristics of autism but they do not fit the complete diagnostic category as diagnosed by the Health professional Team involving a Paediatrician or Child Psychiatrist, Child Psychologist or Speech Pathologist.