What is it?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological disorder that affects the development of communication and social interaction skills. Most children with autism also display repetitive patterns of behaviour that interfere with their ability to learn and play.
What are the signs?
Some common behavioural characteristics of ASD include:
- Delayed or aberrant speech and language development
- Poor eye contact
- Avoidance of or indifference to social contact
- Repetitive patterns of behaviour, such as reciting dialogue from a cartoon or staring at the spinning wheels of a toy truck
- Disruptive behaviour, such as severe tantrums or self-injury
- Preference for sameness/resistance to change in routines
How is it diagnosed?
The specific characteristics of autism occur in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. ASD is diagnosed through behavioural observation. Currently, there are no medical tests to assess a child for ASD. ASD affects significantly more boys than girls (approximately 4:1). For more information on how to get your child assessed contact your paediatrician.
How common is it?
Research suggests that the incidence of autism is increasing. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (January, 2003), more than 1 in 300 children are affected. This rate is three to four times higher than incidence rates reported 30 years ago and suggests that autism is increasing at a faster rate than all other disabilities. Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys.