Ageing, Disability & Home Care

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Children with autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong disability with a range of characteristics. By the age of three, children with ASD show difficulties in three main areas:

  • social interaction and relationships
  • communication and language
  • repetitive behaviour and routines

Although no two children with ASD are the same, they all face challenges in interacting and communicating with others. The level of impact on your child and family life will vary.

Some children with ASD have very good memories, have excellent problem solving skills in areas such as maths or computer sciences, can be very knowledgeable about their favourite hobbies or topics and have very high level visual learning skills. ASD refers to a range of conditions including Austistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Different types of ASD

Autistic disorder (or autism)

Children with this diagnosis show that they have difficulties with social relationships, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviour. They might also have associated developmental delays – this means they haven’t reached certain milestones for their age.

Read more on Autism disorder.

Asperger’s disorder

Children diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder generally don’t have developmental delays, and might have good language skills. They might have:

  • unusual language patterns (such as speaking in a very formal way with a monotone voice)
  • difficulties with social relationships
  • narrow interests (so they can become easily fixated on a favourite topic)

Read more on Asperger’s disorder.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Children are diagnosed with PDD–NOS when they have some but not all of the symptoms needed for a diagnosis of autistic disorder or Asperger’s disorder.

Read more on PDD–NOS.

Getting help early makes a difference

The first sign of ASD that parents may notice is their child’s lack of interest in what is going on around them.

If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your health care provider about a developmental assessment.

If you are worried about how your child is developing, it is important to seek support as soon as you can. Discuss your concerns with your local early childhood nurse or your family doctor. Your doctor can refer you for an assessment where you may receive a diagnosis and referrals to other supports to help you and your child.

A paediatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other trained professional in ASD, can diagnose ASD by watching your child play or interact and by interviewing you about your child’s development.

Finding out will assist you to start helping your child and accessing the services and programs suited to your child’s needs.

Research says that starting intervention as young as possible is most effective in helping the development of children with ASD and providing support for their families.Early intervention refers to doing things as early as possible to help your child develop. Interventions for children with ASD are programs or strategies that are aimed at helping to promote your child's development.

Accessing the right supports for you and your child

It is important to recognise that children with autism have differing patterns of strengths and needs. In addition, families differ in their goals, strengths and needs. As a result no one program or intervention will suit all children with autism and their families.

Families can contact the Autism Advisor Program on 1300 978 611. This program links families to early intervention services, provides advice and information about community services that meet the needs of the family, as well as being central liaison for early intervention funding packages.

Families can also contact the ADHC Information, Referral and Intake service or the Parent Line NSW on 1300 1300 52.

Some of the information on this web page about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was sourced from the Raising Children Network’s comprehensive and quality assured Australian parenting website, and some from the Thinking and Learning in Autism Fact Sheet on the Autism Spectrum Australia website.

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