Autism is officially known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is estimated that more than one in 100 people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of ASD. So, nearly a quarter of a million Australians meet the criteria for ASD. Boys are diagnosed more often but this is now changing as we understand that the way girls and women express ASD is different to boys/men.
Autism is one of the neurodevelopmental disorders which include autism, ADHD, language disorders, learning disorders, selective mutism to name a few. Autism is a lifetime developmental condition which affects the manner in which the person relates to the environment and interacts with other people.
Autistic traits are present in all people to a greater of lesser extent. Thus, the term “autistic spectrum” provides a structure for understanding that the number, strength and range of difficulties of this group. The main areas of difficulties are in social communication and social interaction plus restricted and/or repetitive behaviours and interests.
An ASD diagnosis can be undertaken by a team of professionals from different disciplines. The team may include a Clinical Psychologist and/or Educational Psychologist, Speech Pathologist, Paediatrician, and/or a Psychiatrist. (See “the diagnostic process for children, adolescents and adults referred for assessment of autism spectrum disorder: A National Guideline” released in May 2017).
Research has demonstrated that early intervention is effective for ASD. This varies from a strong behavioural approach for those with Classic Autism to more traditional individual and group therapies for others with ASD. Clinical Psychologists and Educational Psychologists can provide appropriate therapies.