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What is autism?

If you think your child has autism, or if you have a new diagnosis for your child, it's important to know you aren't alone and there are supports available for your child, and also your family.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder, which is more prevalent in males than females, affecting approximately 1 in 100 people. Evidence shows early intervention (delivered within a program that meets the 2012 Australian Good Practice Guidelines) makes a difference to a child's development, helping them to develop important skills that will encourage independence, the ability to communicate and opportunities for inclusion. While there's no 'cure' for autism, there is hope.

Autism is part of a spectrum that is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  People with autism share challenges in two main areas; however, their condition can affect them differently. While some people are able to live relatively everyday lives, others may require ongoing specialist support and care.

The two main areas of difficulty include:

  • Social interaction and social communication, including difficulty with body language and verbal communication, reciprocal conversation, emotional and social reciprocity and managing structured parts of the day; and
  • Restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviours or interests, including rituals and routines, and difficulty with hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to sensory input.

If you’re concerned your child isn’t developing typically, it’s important to investigate this with a trusted medical or health professional. If your child does have autism, an early diagnosis will ensure your child and family can access appropriate supports, giving your child the best chance to develop essential life skills and reach their full potential.

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder

National Guidelines for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Australia highlight that ASD can be diagnosed by any trained health professionals who observes an individual for specific behaviours relating to social communication and restricted / repetitive behaviours and interests.

Most commonly, children are assessed by a paediatrician on referral from a general practitioner (GP). Children can be assessed and diagnosed from a very early age—sometimes even under the age of two. Generally, expected developmental milestones guide when parents choose to consult with a GP.

No doubt, you’ll have many questions, and it can be a daunting task to research the various interventions that are available and decide on the right approach for your family.

As the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rolls out across Australia, how you access an early intervention service provider and funding to offset the fees can differ.

Call our friendly team on 1300 273 435 if you’d like advice on what your next steps should be when accessing a plan and funding for your child, or if you would simply like more information about the service offered by AEIOU Foundation.

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