Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges.
Contrary to stereotypes, there is often nothing about how people with ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from neurotypical people.
ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is about four times more common among boys than girls. There are also no known causes of ASD. Different factors can play a part in a child’s condition, including environmental, biological, and genetic factors.
Autism has many subtypes that can be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. While some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Symptoms can vary from person to person, but people on the spectrum can face some common social communication difficulties and/or restricted and repetitive behaviours such as:
Social communication and interaction
Repetitive behaviours or restricted interests
Fixed routines and rituals
Resistance to changes or transitions
Unusual interests in or sensitivity to sensory input
Delays in social or language developmental milestones
Unusually intense interests
Early Intervention is Key
There is currently no cure for ASD; however, research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. Early intervention services can help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. Therefore, it is essential to speak with your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problems.
Some students with autism will be able to learn new skills with their peers in mainstream school with specialist support. Others will need to have more specialised learning environments to learn in a more individualised way with the time and opportunity to practice and apply the skills they have learnt in many functional ways depending on their level and abilities.
While ASD is not something a person simply “grows out of,” there are many treatments that can help children acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. From free government services to in-home behavioural therapy and school-based programs, assistance is available to meet your child’s special needs and help them learn, grow, and thrive in life.
Parenting an ASD Child
Learn to accept your child. Rather than focusing on how your autistic child is different from other children and what they are “missing,” practise acceptance. Enjoy your kid’s special quirks, celebrate small successes, and stop comparing your child to others. Feeling unconditionally loved and accepted will help your child more than anything else.
Educate yourself. The more you know about ASD, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions for your child. Research, talk to professionals about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Spend time to understand your child. Figure out what triggers your kid’s challenging or disruptive behaviours and what elicits a positive or negative response. What does your child find stressful, calming or fun? If you better understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems and preparing ahead for situations that can be difficult or avoidable.
Take time for yourself. When looking after a child with ASD, it’s also crucial to take care of yourself. Take time for yourself to accept and move on. Being emotionally stable and calm will help you be the best parent you can be to your child.
You can do this. It can be discouraging and difficult to imagine what the future holds for your child. However, like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities. You are not alone. Join a support group for parents with ASD children to share resources and strategies.
Where can I get help from?
If you have any concerns about your child’s communication, behaviour or social and play skills, or if you have observed that your child has one or more of the mentioned behaviours, do seek out a healthcare professional as soon as possible, as early diagnosis and intervention are very important. Even if your child has not been diagnosed with ASD, they may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. In addition, treatment for certain symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, often does not need a formal ASD diagnosis.
If you are struggling with managing your child with special education needs, join us at the Signpost groupwork programme. Signpost equips parents with skills to help them understand, prevent and manage their child’s difficult behaviour through the development of a personalised programme that suits the unique needs of their child. Please register your interest for our FREE parenting support programmes at http://go.fycs.org/PSS or contact us via [email protected] or call 88694006.
Written by Phoebe Wong, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services
SG ENABLE services for Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) and Development Support Plus (DS-Plus)
The EIPIC programme, comprising of EIPIC Under-2s and EIPIC@Centre, is delivered at EI centres by a team of EI Professionals and Allied Health Professionals. It supports children who require medium to high levels of early intervention (EI) support and aims to increase the developmental growth potential of the child, minimising the development of secondary disabilities, and maximising integration into mainstream settings.
ICCP is an inclusive childcare programme for children requiring low levels of Early Intervention (EI) support. Providing these children with a natural learning environment alongside mainstream peers will help prepare them for future entry into mainstream primary education.
Special educational needs in both mainstream and SPED schools
Children with special educational needs may require additional support in school. Learn more about the support in mainstream and special education schools and how to get the necessary help for your child.