Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and impacts a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviours and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees. Each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Some people on the spectrum may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children. This would mean that over 9,000 children are born with autism in Malaysia every year. Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and attention issues.
Signs of Autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
Autism affects an individual’s development and ability to adapt across the lifespan. However, research shows that early diagnosis can lead to improved quality of life.
Here are some signs to look for:
● Speaks later than typical or not at all (nonverbal)
● Repetition in language or movement, such as repeating the same word or sounds, handflapping, or any repeated movement
● Atypical nonverbal communication, including avoiding eye contact, giving few facial expressions, or having a monotone
● Prefers solitary or parallel play rather than engaging in associative or cooperative play withother children
● Extremely distressed by changes, including new foods or changes in schedule
● Strong, persistent interest on specific topic, part of a toy, or item