What is Autism?

Research shows that Autism impacts 1 in 100 Australians, so odds are high that we have all had an intimate encounter with someone on the autism spectrum. With ever evolving research, changes, and studies, it can be hard to keep up with what is going on in the autism community. If you find yourself unsure of what autism really is, then this post is for you.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way people relate to their environment and their interactions with others. This can be evidenced in difficulties in communication, social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and even repetitive or avoidant behaviors.

Autism can be difficult to understand and identify because it has such a wide variation of challenges, and it looks different in each individual. You may have heard the phrase “on the spectrum” in regards to Autism. This is a term that references the wide array of symptoms and the impact it may have on someone’s life. For example, one third of people with autism remain non verbal throughout their life, but others may learn to flourish within their social settings. It is hard to categorise or put all individuals with autism in a “box”, so it is important to remember to approach each case as uniquely and individually as the person.

How do I know if it is autism? Autism’s most obvious signs typically appear developmentally around ages 2-3. The earlier autism is recognised and addressed, the outcomes of treatment tend to be better, so if you have a concern about whether or not a loved one may be somewhere on the autism spectrum, book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

It is important to note that there is no scientific research supporting a cure for autism. This fact can be important to remember when establishing expectations and evaluating treatments that may advertise a “cure”. There are many forms of treatment that have had success in greatly improving the quality of life for individuals with autism and can greatly benefit not only the individual with autism but their families as well.

So what causes autism?

Well the short answer is, we don’t know. There is no known, single cause of this disorder but given the complexity of the condition there are probably many causes. Genetics appear to be involved in autism that may make some children more susceptible to the condition. Environment may also play a role, but it is important to note that there is no evidence that supports a child’s upbringing or social circumstances contributing to autism. If you are the caregiver of someone with autism, it is important to realise that you did nothing to cause this condition in your child.

Early indications of autism could include:

  • Looking away when being spoken to or totally avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of interest in other children or preferring to play alone
  • Limited social play like “Peek a Boo”
  • Not responding to their name or not pointing and waving by 12 months of age
  • Repetitive speech or a loss of previously learned words
  • Unusual attachments or interests
  • Unusual or repetitive motor movements, like flapping hands, spinning, walking on toes
  • Stressful reaction to everyday sounds
  • Struggles with change, needs repetitive routines

These are just a few of the most common indications of autism in very small children. Children with autism may exhibit behaviours not listed and children without autism may also exhibit one or more of these behaviours as well. This list meant to be used as a helpful tool and not diagnostic criteria. If you would like to learn more about autism and speak to a psychologist, call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Conversing with Parents of Children with Autism- What not to say
How to Manage the Most Challenging Autism Behaviours
Bonding with Children with Autism

Looking for support?