What is Autism Spectrum Disorder

April is Autism awareness month, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a well known condition, however it is difficult to define as every person is different. In terms of diagnosis, a child would present with challenges in the following areas: social communication, social interactions and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.  

Every diagnosis is different, and ‘spectrum’ refers to the varying degree of challenges each individual faces. A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder may experience difficulty participating in everyday routines, activities, and environments.

Early intervention is key in supporting the child and those working directly with the child. Depending on the level of difficulty a child is experiencing, the early intervention team often includes occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology. Occupational therapy focuses on the following areas and skills; sensory, social, play, learning, behavioural, and self-care (dressing, toileting, eating).

Social Skills

There are many common aspects of ASD that affect a child’s ability to create social relationships with other children. This can include eye contact, engaging in imaginative play, understanding social rules and behaviours, being aware of others and problem solving.

Sensory Processing

Many individuals with ASD find the ability to process sensory information challenging including touch, taste, smell, sound, sight. This can cause challenges with dressing, toileting, showering, eating, and tolerating certain environments or social situations.

Joint Attention

Joint attention involves the sharing of attention or non-verbal communication between the child and another person. This may include sharing enjoyment or initiating interaction with family or friends. This can effect the establishment of friendships and relationship between family members.

Transitioning

Children with ASD can find change or transitions difficult.  This may result in challenges following routines at school and home and may cause stress, anxiety and disruptive behaviours.

Behaviour Support

There a many challenging behaviours shown by children with ASD that may affect their participation in everyday home, school and social activities. These behaviours can include poor emotional control, meltdowns, inflexibility, conflict with peers and siblings, and can be a result of the above factors.  

Strengths

Like all children, a child with ASD is unique and has many strengths. It is important to focus on and celebrate the strengths of each child. With the appropriate support and strategies, children with ASD can build on and develop the skills they need to reach their full potential.

If you would like more information about occupational therapy and how we can assist your child, please contact Empowered Kids.