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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder in the central nervous system and a type of developmental disorder that begins at the early stages of growth and is associated with malfunction in the development of sensory and linguistic perception hence affects the ability of communication and social interaction leads to different behaviors and responses towards environmental stimuli (Source: National Classification of Disabilities-People of Determination in the United Arab Emirates).

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What are the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) shows deficits in communication and social interaction in addition to limited and restricted patterns of behaviors or abnormal sensory responses such as:
  1. Social Symptoms:
    • At Breastfeeding phase, they develop symptoms such as: not responding to their names, lack of interest and interaction with people, and delay of producing sounds that occurs before the first words.
    • Difficulty in social play and imitation.
    • Difficulty of participating in dialogues and interacting with people on a daily basis.
    • Difficulty of interpreting what others think or feel, or view, understand things from the perspective of others
    • Difficulty in regulating their emotions.
    • Difficulty in visual communication
  2. Communication difficulties:
    • Delay in producing sounds that precede the first words in addition to the delay in learning to use gestures.
    • Delays in language and speech skills as well as verbal and non-verbal communication
    • Use of speech in an inappropriate context
    • Some repeat what they hear literally as an echo, which is known as echolalia.
    • Challenges in the social uses of language.
    • Difficulties in understanding body language, tone of voice and expressions that are not meant to be taken literally.
    • Difficulty in pointing out toward things a child needs and the inability to share things with others.
  3. Repetitive Behaviours:
    • Repetitive Behaviours may include hand flapping, swinging, jumping, rotating, arranging and rearranging objects, and repeating sounds, words or phrases.
    • Some spend hours order toys in a certain way instead of using them to play.
    • Some adults spend time to arrange things at home in a certain way and in a certain order and may become very upset when someone or something disturbs that arrangement.
    • Extreme preoccupation with something in strange matters such as extreme interest, scientific matters or detailed information on a particular subject.
    • Older children and adults may develop a tremendous interest in numbers, symbols, dates, or scientific subjects.
    • Abnormal responses to sensory stimuli in the environment (e.g. noise discomfort and touching surfaces)

ASD Red Flags in Early Childhood.

  1. Child does not pay attention when called by his/ her name.
  2. Child does not respond to a smile.
  3. Child does not communicate visually.
  4. Child does not point to toys or objects.
  5. Child does not ask for what he/ she wants using clear words up to 18 months.
  6. Child does not play with toys in a flexible manner.
  7. Less interested in surroundings
  8. Performs repetitive movements

If you observe any of these signs, please do not hesitate to ask for specialists’ assistance.