WHAT IS ASD?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder of the brain that affects how a person communicates, relates and interacts with other people.
The key challenge faced by persons with autism is with social interaction. They face, to varying degrees, difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, relating social cues and at times repetitive behaviours.
Autism is a spectrum of disorders, the challenges faced by one person with the disorder would vary from another person with the disorder, so no two persons with autism are the same.
Some examples of ASD include:
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS)
WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?
Existing research yet to identify a definitive cause for autism.
Just as autism is a spectrum, there is a spectrum of causes for autism as well. The cause of autism in one person differs from the cause of autism in another. Researchers are still trying to understand how genetic or environmental factors may play a role. The cause of autism could be due to a single gene, a collection of genes, a combination of genetic and environmental factors and so on and so forth. There is no known single cause for autism.
For a clearer explanation, refer to this video.
DOES MY CHILD HAVE AUTISM?
You may try out the online tests here to find out if your child might have symptoms similar to ASD.
This is not an official diagnosis for autism.
For an official diagnosis, book an assessment from the various centres here.
Seek advice from your developmental paediatrician if you observe the following:
Lack of eye contact
Delayed speech or language skills
Poor imaginative play
Solitary - shows little or no interest in interacting with others
Your paediatrician will not be able to diagnose your child, but he/she will be able to arrange for necessary assessments and work together with a multidisciplinary team of specialists to determine if your child is at risk of autism.
HOW IS AUTISM DIAGNOSED?
Autism can usually be detected when a child is between 2 - 3 years old. It can sometimes even be detected in children 18 months or younger. In Singapore, a definitive diagnosis of autism is made when the child is around 3 years old.
A general developmental screening test is conducted in the first visit by a multidisciplinary team of specialists. Your child may be called in for subsequent assessments by developmental paediatricians and allied health professionals (e.g. psychologists) if further psychological or diagnostic evaluations are required.
IS THERE A CURE FOR AUTISM?
There is no cure for autism. However, there are treatment options that will help your child to develop in their area of weakness such as speech or behavioural therapies. For a full range of available therapies, click here.
MY CHILD WAS JUST DIAGNOSED WITH ASD, WHAT DO I DO?
Do not blame yourself
It is common for parents to blame themselves or each other for their child’s condition. There is no definitive cause for autism. It has nothing to do with what you or your spouse did or did not do for your child.
Plausible causes of autism such as genetics and environmental factors are beyond your control. The best you can do for your child is to decide what to do next.
With 1 in 150 children in Singapore having autism, you are certainly not alone.
Apart from professional help from hospitals, schools and therapy centres, it is important to get connected with a community of caregivers who can provide you real-life experience, insider tips and emotional support to alleviate your caregiving stress.
Understanding the condition will help you to better understand your child and learn to manage them. Seek information from reliable online resources like this website or established associations in Singapore. As you keep learning, you will feel better equipped to make wise decisions for your child.
Other ways to get educated is also by reading books, articles and attending events. Volunteer, training or workshop events will help to connect you with professionals and other caregivers who can understand and advice you.
Be kind to yourself
This means caring and being patient with yourself.
You can best care for yourself when you yourself are well cared for. Know when you need to seek help from professionals or caregivers so that you can better care for yourself and subsequently, your child. You are not in this alone.
Every day presents itself with a new challenge, so be patient with yourself. No child, whether neurotypical or atypical, comes with a manual. Every day is a learning journey in the life of every parent and we know you can do it!