Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a range of developmental disorders characterised by difficulties in socialisation and communication, and restricted or repetitive pattern of behaviours and interest. It is estimated that one out of 150 children today have some form of ASD. Some examples of ASD include Autism, Asperger's syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS).
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals with ASD present differently, but some of these signs that warrant further investigation include:
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Solitary, prefers to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Little or no interest in others or have trouble relating to others
- Repeats certain behaviours in the same manner
- Laughs or cries without apparent reason
- Unusual way of playing or no play
- Have difficulties with changes in schedule or routine
Individuals with ASD may also present with difficulties in other aspects such as anxiety, learning disabilities and eating problems.
There is no cure for autism but there are interventions that will help children improve in their areas of weaknesses. Some children might require intensive speech therapy if the lack of speech is considered the main issue that hinders them from further development. Other children might benefit from social skills training. Older children might also require occupational training so that they can find a suitable job in the future.
- Behavioural Therapy
Behavioural therapy changes what people do by teaching them to respond to things in a different way. It focuses on the individual’s behaviours, and aims to modify the undersirable behaviours and shape the desirable ones. Behavioural therapy is conducted by trained professionals.
- Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy uses purposeful activities to help children achieve their greatest level of independence in their day-to-day activities. For children with autism, most of the work with the occupational therapist involves the areas of sensation and movement, as well as some activities to acquire the skills of daily living.
- Other therapies
Apart from behavioural and occupational therapies which work on the symptoms of autism, individuals with the disorder may benefit from other therapies that will help them cope better. For instance, the child who is being bullied in school can develop greater self-confidence with play therapy. The child who feels sad because he thinks that he is different from other children might abandon the negative thought through art therapy.
There is yet no medicine that cures autism. But, there are medicines that can help alleviate other conditions that an autistic child might have. For instance, when behavioural problems are so disruptive that they prevent learning, medication can be used to alleviate these disruptive behaviours so that learning can take place. Medication can never replace behavioural management techniques because medicines only reduce the problems temporarily; they do not remove the root of the problem.
If you feel that your child has developmental delays or difficulties in the areas of communication and social interaction, and has a rigid pattern of behaviour, he may need to consult a professional for a diagnosis.
The Neuro-Behavioural Clinic offers Autism Services. We are a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychiatrists and allied health specialists such as psychologist, social workers and occupational therapist. We provide clinically proven autism assessment services and evidence-based intervention. Ongoing research in the area of ASD is also one of our primary foci.
We offer services to children and youth diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders between five and 19 years old. These services include:
- Diagnosis and Assessment
- Individualised intervention in areas such as anxiety management, self-organisation, self-regulation, social skills, etc.
- Psychological management of co-morbid mental health issues
- Pharmacological management of co-morbid mental health issues
- Parent education
- Referral to community resources or consultation with schools
- Groups addressing emotion regulation, such as anxiety and anger management.
- Transition groups, such as from Primary to Secondary school.
Other Useful Information:
- Autism Spectrum Disorders in Pre-School Children. AMS-MOH Clinical Practice Guidelines 1/2010. Singapore
- Centre for Enabled Living
To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200. Referrals for assessment or intervention are accepted through a doctor from the Child Guidance Clinic only. For further enquiries, you may email us at HPB@imh.com.sg.