​​​​​​About one in 150 children in Singapore has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Persons with ASD have difficulties understanding the perspectives and emotions of other people. They may not understand social norms and cues, and may appear to be inflexible and need to do things in specific ways.

ASD is a range of developmental disorders. Some examples of ASD include Autism, Asperger's syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS).

 The ABCs of ASD (Children)​

The ABCs of ASD (Adults)

To learn more about ASD in adults, refer to ​Adult Neurodevelopmental Service - IMH | Institute of Mental Health.

Typically, symptoms are present from the early developmental years. However, in some cases, the symptoms may not be overserved till the child is older – when social demands exceed the child’s ability to cope. The symptoms often persist into adolescences and adulthood.

Persons with ASD may experience a range of the following challenges:

Difficulties in social communication

  • Lack of social emotional reciprocity (e.g. maintaining conversations, expressing emotions and sharing of interests)
  • Difficulties in the use of non-verbal communication to regulate social interaction (e.g. establishing appropriate eye contact, using appropriate gestures, tone, and facial expressions)
  • Difficulty establishing and sustaining relationships
  • Difficulties adjusting behaviours to different social contexts
  • Individuals with ASD may also present with difficulties in other aspects such as anxiety, learning disabilities and eating problems.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviours, interests and activities

  • Stereotyped or repetitive behaviours (e.g. repetitive speech, motor movements or use of objects)
  • Constant need to keep to rigid routines and rituals (i.e. may be distressed when routines are disrupted)
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes
  • Highly restricted and fixated interests
  • Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory experiences or unusual sensory interests (e.g. being hyper-sensitive to noise or being indifferent to pain, heat and cold)

​​With appropriate intervention, education and support, individuals with ASD can show marked improvement in their ability to live a full life and manage their challenges despite there being no cure for developmental disabilities.

The goals of managing ASD are to facilitate normal development in learning, language and social skills, reduce autism-specific behaviours such as rigidity, repetitive movements, hyperactivity, irritability and alleviate burden for the family.

For children with ASD, it is important to find an appropriate school and to use specific strategies to facilitate their learning of social and communication skills. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may also complement the child’s learning needs.

  • Behavioural Therapy
    Behavioural therapy focuses on the individual’s behaviours, and aims to shape challenging behaviours and encourage pro-social 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. 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
    Individuals with ASD 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.
  • Medication
    There is yet no medicine that cures autism. There are, however, medications 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 medications only reduce the problems temporarily; they do not remove the root of the problem.

​​For preschoolers, developmental paediatricians, such as doctors at the KKH Department of Child Development and the NUH Child Development Unit would be able to assess these concerns.

For school-going children and adolescents from 6 – 18 years old, the IMH Neuro-Behavioural Clinic offers autism diagnostic services and interventions for co-morbid mental health concerns. To make an appointment to see a doctor at the Child Guidance Clinic, please call 6389 2200 or email HPB@imh.com.sg for enquiries.

For adults with Intellectual Disability (ID) and/or ASD with co-occurring mental health conditions​, the Adult Neurodevelopmental Service (ANDS) provides assessment and treatment. ​For more info, visit Adult Neurodevelopmental Service - IMH | Institute of Mental Health

​​Neuro-Behavioural Clinic

The Neuro-Behavioural Clinic is a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychiatrists and allied health specialists such as psychologist, social workers and occupational therapist. The clinic provides autism assessment services and evidence-based intervention, with research being one of our primary foci.

We work with children and youth diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders between five and 19 years old. These services include:

Individual Programmes:

  • 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

Group Programmes:

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.

Neuro-Behavioural Clinic