Common ailments

Autism

 

I’m concerned that my five year old daughter may have autism. She becomes irritable and upset in social situations, particularly when meeting new people. At first I thought she was just shy as she has only just started primary school, but her school teacher has noticed that she doesn’t seem to interact with other children and spends most of her time alone. What should I do?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition which affects the way a person responds to the world around them - it affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. The condition includes Asperger syndrome and childhood autism.

The symptoms you describe are common signs of autism, though symptoms can very greatly from person to person. In children, other symptoms can include getting upset at changes made to their normal routine, avoiding the use of spoken language and not understanding personal boundaries when interacting with people – such as respecting their personal space. It is worth pointing out however that generally for a diagnosis of autism to be made, the behavioural symptoms must usually begin before the age of three.

The exact cause for ASD is unknown and so there is no 'cure' for the condition. However, a wide range of interventions, including education and behaviour support, can help people with the condition.

I would advise seeing your GP who will talk through your daughter’s symptoms and refer her for a specialist assessment if necessary. If an assessment is carried out it will usually include finding out information about your daughter’s development, health and behaviour from relevant people such as your GP and your daughter’s school teachers. Sometimes a physical assessment will be carried out and a blood sample may be taken to rule out genetic conditions with similar symptoms to ASD which could be causing your daughter’s behaviour.

Whilst it can be daunting if your child is diagnosed with ASD, having a diagnosis may allow you to better understand why they behave as they do and enable you to help them work through any difficulties they may face. A helpful organisation is the National Autistic Society (www.autism.org.uk) which has information and support for autistic children and adults, and their carers.

 

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