What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism or ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests / behaviours and sensory sensitivities.
Autism encompasses Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS, childhood disintegrative disorder, and autistic disorder.The word “spectrum” is used because the range and severity of the difficulties people with Autism experience can vary widely.
Recent research by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in 2014 indicates 1 in 68 children are impacted by Autism. Their studies suggest there is a higher prevalence in boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189) .
The impact of Autism on a child’s quality of life can often be managed by early diagnosis and the right intervention (such as Applied Behaviour Analysis) with many children showing marked improvements and are able to integrate into mainstream schools and society.
Think Psychological Services is recognised as the leading psychological practices in Singapore specialised in Autism assessment, diagnosis and intervention. Our team of psychologists are internationally trained and accredited in administering / interpreting relevant assessments for Autism and related disorders. We are an exclusive provider of such services to a number of international schools, pediatricians and psychiatrists in Singapore.
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder
There is no single known cause for Autism, however recent research has identified strong genetic links, including your child’s sex (more common in boys) and family history of ASD.
It is also not uncommon for children with Autism to also be challenged by other conditions, such as:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Dyspraxia and related disorders
- Inherent learning disabilities
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Cerebral palsy
- Muscular dystrophy
- Tourette’s syndrome
There is no scientifically proven evidence connecting Autism to the MMR vaccine, diet, an individual’s upbringing or their social circumstances.
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism begins at a very early stage of a child’s life.
Some children with Autism demonstrate symptoms within their first few months after birth, whilst others might only demonstrate concerning behaviours after a couple of years.
Some children with Autism seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.
It is important to recognise that Autism has a range (or “spectrum”) of symptoms. Every child has a unique pattern of behaviour and will exhibit symptoms with different levels of severity.
The three common categories of symptoms faced by children with Autism include:
Impairment in social interaction
- Limited use and understanding of non-verbal communication, such as, facial expressions and gestures
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Not responding to their name by 12 months
- Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months (e.g. airplanes)
- Not playing “pretend” games by 18 months (e.g. feeding a doll)
- Difficulties forming and sustaining friendships
- Lack of seeking to share enjoyment, interests or activities with other children or adults
- Difficulties with social and emotional responsiveness
Impairment in communication
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations
- Stereotyped and repetitive use of language such as repeating phrases from television (i.e. Echolalia)
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Limited imaginative or make-believe play
Restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours
- Unusually intense or focused interests
- Stereotyped and repetitive body movements such as hand flapping and spinning
- Repetitive use of objects in a non-functional way (e.g. lining up toys)
- Adherence to non-functional routines such as insisting on travelling the same route each day (e.g. to and from school)
Individuals with Autism may also demonstrate:
- Unusual sensory interests, such as, sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
- Sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
- Flap their hands, rock their body or spin in circles
- Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties
Assessment & Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
To be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder your child must be assessed by a qualified psychologist and meet the criteria as setout in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Think Psychological Services takes a holistic approach to assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder through a combination of interviews, observation and diagnostic testing.
The typical Autism assessment and diagnosis process includes:
- Initial history intake of the child/individual
- A structured interview using the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R). ADI-R is an internationally recognised, standardised assessment tool for diagnosing autism, planning treatment, and distinguishing autism from other developmental disorders
- Semi-structured behavioural observation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). ADOS is an internationally recognised, standardised assessment tool which allows a psychologist to observe and quantify social and communicative behaviours that are relevant to the diagnosis of Autism at different developmental stages
- Standardised psychometric testing (e.g. IQ and Abilities) may be carried out to gather more information on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses
- Adaptive Behavioural screening along with home or school visits may be carried out if necessary
- Observation of the individual in different environments (e.g. home and/or school) may be proposed to achieve a more comprehensive set of individualised recommendations for the intervention process
Our psychologists at Think Psychological Services have extensive international experience in assessing individuals with Autism and are qualified to make a diagnosis.
Treatment, Help & Support for Autism Spectrum Disorder
There is no cure for Autism but impacted children can learn to have a better quality of life.At Think Psychological Services, in collaboration with our partner Think Kids, we offer advice and customised early intervention therapy utilising Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Our team of psychologists include some of the most experienced Autism and ABA specialists in Singapore.
The individualised educational planning, counselling (for individual and family) and structured support that Think Psychological Services / Think Kids offers can help minimise some of the symptoms associated with Autism and manage behaviours of your child which improves both their and your quality of life.
Think Kids – Autism Treatment & ABA Intervention Services
Think Kids specialises in treatment, early intervention and developmental services for children with Autism in Singapore.
Think Kids is one of the only specialised Autism intervention providers Singapore to have registered clinical, educational and developmental psychologists permanently based onsite and actively involved in the day-to-day monitoring of children’s intervention programs.