What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a term often used as an umbrella term for Pervasive Developmental Disorders as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders 4th Edition, Text revised (DSM-IV-TR). Autism can be seen as a spectrum on which each individual that has it is somewhere on a continuum including Autistic disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s disorder, Rett’s disorder and Childhood integrative disorder, as seen in the picture below.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Autism Disorders

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability whereby those affected display difficulties in the  following  4 areas (By some referred to as the “Quadrant of Autism”)

1.      Communication and language difficulties

* People with autism often have a language delay or total lack of language. They often lack communicative intent, and those with adequate speech struggle to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.

2.      Difficulties in relating to other people

* People with autism often do not make eye contact and struggles to develop peer relationships or seeking enjoyment with others. For instance, they do not like participating in simple social play or games and prefer solitary activities.

3.      A narrow restricted repertoire of thinking and behaviour

* People with autism often have a preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest and find it difficult if there is a change in routine. They like predictability throughout their day as this lessens their anxiety. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms are also often prevalent.

4.      Difficulties with sensory integration

* Sensory integration refers to how people use the information provided by all the sensations coming from within the body and from the external environment. People with autism either have hyper sensitive sensory systems or hypo-sensitive.

Although statistics about the prevalence of Autism varies, Autism Western Cape estimates that 1 in 86 children in South Africa under the age of 6 years are affected by it. Autism is 4 times more prevalent in boys than in girls.

You are more than welcome to contact us if you suspect that your child might be displaying some of these difficulties.

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