Who can help us diagnose autism?

Parental input is essential in the detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but only a healthcare professional can make an official diagnosis. Read on to find out everything you need to know about autism.

Autism spectrum disorder is the most common of the five Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). PDD is more or less an umbrella term referring to the varying forms and degrees of autism.

How to recognize autism

Characteristics associated with autism manifest in varying degrees, from mild to severe. However, all forms of autism affect language and communication, and impair social skills and developmental behaviour in some way.

Parents and relatives are the first line of detection when identifying characteristics of developmental delays. Some differences may include:

In children 0-3 years of age

  • A language deficit and difficulty communicating, even after 12 months.
  • An avoidance, fear or indifference to normal social interaction.
  • A strong response to the five senses (noise, light, touch, strong smells, unpleasant taste).
  • Repetitive gestures and behaviours.
  • Unusually calm demeanour: never cries; difficulty to smile and laugh.
  • Shifty or empty eyes.
  • Developmental delay or regression.
  • Sudden bursts of anger, which are unprovoked and difficult to calm.

During childhood or adolescence

  • Social contact with others is awkward, difficult.
  • Very few friendships, if any.
  • Lonely, withdrawn, and may try to run away.
  • Obsessive interests (intense fixation).
  • Exhibits unusual and often very sophisticated skills (possesses exceptional memory, capable of precise calculations, and understanding very complex data).

If you’re an adult and suspect you may have an undiagnosed type of PDD, your symptoms are probably very mild. Nonetheless, consult a doctor or psychiatrist without delay.

Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders

If you notice unusual symptoms, it’s important to consult your doctor as soon as possible. Together you will decide whether or not to perform autism tests.

Autism tests are administers by a team of healthcare experts. They use several tools and methods to identify the disorder. Doctors will test neurological responses and motor and speech skills. The M-CHAT checklist is another widely used screening tool.

The severity of autism is determined by the intensity and degree of symptoms, and considers the level of daily functioning.

How to treat autism

Early detection is the single most important factor contributing to effective treatment. Differences in autistic behaviour can be reduced, but do not disappear completely. Treatment is usually a combination of psychological and behavioural therapy.

Since autistic individuals are often hypersensitive, the goal of treatment is to find new ways to adapt while learning to improve social and motor skills.

A supplement for parents

You can find several PDD assessment tools online. Many autism healthcare associations provide testing and screening apps you can download right to your phone or tablet. These apps and tools contain valuable information, including the answers to your questions, tips and advice, treatment resources, and life skills programs to help children.

Who can help us diagnose autism?
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