Autism Spectrum Conditons

Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC also known as ASD) is the name given to a group of conditions that appear in the early stages of develop. It’s called a “spectrum” as there is a wide range of symptoms and abilities associated with this group. Despite the uniqueness of individuals with ASD, there are a common pattern of behaviours observed in the areas of:

  • repetitive behaviours and/or a restricted range of interests
  • social communication

Children with ASD may also have some sensory processing difficulties i.e. heightened sensitivity (e.g. to noise or light) or an under sensitivity (e.g. high pain threshold).

Differences are usually noticed by the age of 2 to 3 years, however some differences – particularly in girls – are not observed until much later. The difficulties they can experience significantly impact the individual at home, school, work, or socially.

Symptoms

Not all people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will show all of these behaviours, but most will show several.

Restrictive / repetitive behaviours may include:

  • Displaying certain behaviours over and over,
  • Being overly focused on specific parts of things e.g. wheels on a toy car;
  • An intense (almost obsessional) interest on topics or things e.g. numbers, trains;

Social communication indicators may include:

  • Upset when there is a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new situation;
  • Little or inconsistent eye contact;
  • Less likely look at and listen to other people with they are talking;
  • Difficulty engaging in back and forth conversation; Conversation is largely one-sided;
  • Rarely sharing enjoyment in activities by pointing or showing things to others;
  • Unable to notice when others are not interested;
  • Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection;
  • Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection;
  • Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or other verbal attempts to gain attention;
  • Repeating words or phrases they hear i.e. echolalia;
  • Using words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with that person’s way of communicating;
  • Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said;
  • Tone of voice may be unusual i.e. sound sing-song or flat and robot-like;
  • Have difficulty understanding other people’s point of view or unable to understand other people’s actions.
Aspergers and Autism

Asperger’s Syndrome was previously a subtype of Autism, however the central difficulties are present across both conditions. So the latest diagnostic guidelines do not separate them. Individuals without significant impairment in language and cognitive processing would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s – or been affectionately known as an “Aspie”. Diagnostically, individuals are now described across levels of symptom severity.

Assessment and Diagnosis

In QLD, conclusive diagnosis of ASD is made by a Paediatrician or Psychiatrist. These professionals may undertake the assessment process themselves or may refer to an appropriately qualified Psychologist with specialist training in Autism assessment.

The assessment process may involve:

  • A developmental assessment;
  • Assessment of cognitive/thinking abilities;
  • An assessment of skills of daily living (e.g. dressing self, eating, toileting);
  • An assessment of speech and language skills;
  • School observations.

An assessment should include:

  • A comprehensive developmental interview with specific questions relating to indicators of ASD i.e. ADI-R
  • An observational assessment, using a standardised measure, which communication, social interaction, play, and restricted and repetitive behaviours i.e. ADOS-2.

Reliable assessment is essential. ASD assessments at Your Psych Centre are comprehensive and uses the standardised measures above.

Next Steps

If you think you or child may have symptoms of ASD, and would like further assessment or support you can contact us at Your Psych Centre via phone, email or drop in to our office to arrange to meet with one of our trained psychologists for a confidential discussion.

 

No referral is needed to make an appointment. However, you can arrange for an appointment with your GP to discuss your mental health and the support which is available. If you are eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan, your GP can provide this to you to bring along to your session which will allow you to access a rebate through Medicare.