Whilst autism spectrum disorder can be diagnosed by age 2 years – the average age of an autism diagnosis in South Africa still seems to be from age 4 years onwards. Early screening and the diagnosis for autism can make a lifetime of difference for the child.
There are a few online autism screening checklist tools that can help parents determine whether further evaluation for autism may be needed. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is however a complex development disability and we would recommend that you consult with a specialist medical professional or organisation if you are concerned about your child’s development.
Read the article on Who can I speak to about Developmental Delays in Johannesburg?
Speech delays or speech difficulties
Blocking of ears, food sensitivities or other sensory problem in young children
Eating or feeding issues
Clumsy, bumping into things, falling or any other motor planning delay
Social, Emotional and Behavioural Delays
Educational placement is Government Schools for diagnosed Autistic children
Tags: Autism, Autism Schools, Behavioural Delays, Occupational Therapist, Speech Delays
Chewing is a very common behaviour in special needs children – not just children on the autism spectrum. It is directly linked to Sensory Integration Disorder (SPD). Whilst most children with Autism and ADHD/ADD have sensory issues – neurotypical children can also have sensory problems.
Many children chew constantly and it has to do with how their brain is processing incoming information from the world around them. Chewing is a form of self-regulation or “stimming” as it is also known. The chewing helps the child focus, relax or cope with new situations and environments. It can also serve as a handy, always present form or oral satisfaction for children with an oral fixation.
Sleep disruptions are extremely common in autism and given the disruptive loop, sleep problems are amongst the most urgent concerns all families grappling with autism have. Some of the most common sleep problems that children with autism experience are sleep apnoea, night terrors or nightmares, bedwetting and or chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleep disturbances van vary from being a mere nuisance to a co-occurring diagnosis and we suggest that you speak to your medical practitioner about your concerns.
Blocking of ears is linked to sensory processing disorder (SPD) and helps the child block out too much incoming stimuli. It helps them self-regulated in different situations and it can at times be a sign of anxiety or a way in which they are telling you that they are feeling scared.
Auditory Sensitivity is hugely common amongst autistics. Some children have very specific sensitivities such as lawn-mowers and others are in general more hyper sensitive to noises in their general environment – they just hear the sounds of our world louder than most others.
Most parents want to know one thing in particular: when or if, their child with autism will speak!
This is a very difficult question to answer and even when you research the topic widely you will get conflicting information on percentages on the likely hood of speech developing and at what age.
What I can say from experience is that many children on the spectrum that are not speaking at the age of 4 or even 5 develop meaningful language after the age of 5. There are also many children that only start talking when they are 6 or 7.
There is however children that will remain non-verbal and that will learn to communicate using alternative methods of communication (also known as AAC – Augmentive Alternative Communication).
By age 7, most children that are going to speak have already started to do so and by age 9 if a child remains without spoken language the likelihood of them developing words is minimal.
I want to start by saying that Autism is not a learning disability! Autism is however a neurological disorder and by its definition, this means there will be an impact on how the child is able to learn and develop.
Diagnosing Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder can be very difficult as there is no medical test (like a blood test) that can confirm the diagnosis.
The entire diagnosis is based on the child’s development and behaviour and when the child is very young the parent will need to talk the doctor through the challenges the child faces daily.
The current DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) governs the criteria for making an ASD diagnosis. Any Development Paediatrician, Psychologist or Psychiatrist can use the DSM guidelines with whatever method they choose to make an effective diagnosis.
Some use Development Screening: Development Screening is a short test to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should be – or if there is a delay in development.
Others use the ADOS System: ADOS which stands for Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule has in recent years become very popular. ADOS involves making direct observations under controlled circumstances.
As parents we never want to believe that our children could possibly have a learning or developmental problem. BUT when it comes to Autism the earlier you find out the better for the child in the long run. Ideally you would want to get an autism diagnosis as early as 2 years.
Autism Spectrum Disorder appears in infancy and early childhood and causes delays in many basic areas of development. The most obvious will be a speech delay. The way the child plays and interacts with other will also be visible from as young as 18 months.
Autism is however a spectrum disorder and the way it presents itself in each child is very different. Some children with Autism have mild impairments whilst others will have more severe impairments. However every person diagnosed with Autism in South Africa will have some degree of delay in the following areas:
If you are considering special education for your autistic child then your child is most likely struggling and they are not reaching key development milestones in their current setting.
The question of mainstream education will always be in the back of your mind but as a parent we all want the same thing. We want our children to progress in school and to be a success in whatever they choose to do.
Mainstream education for the autistic learner is very possible and placing your child in an autism pre-school in South Africa will not in any way negatively impact their educational future. On the contrary it will go a long way to helping your child catch up skills that they are struggling with.
Special Education is an important resource – one that can offer educational equity. Special Education is designed to help children that normally would not achieve academic success or social integration do just that.
Nobody can ever prepare themselves for a diagnosis of autism and each parent will need time to cope and get over the initial shock. As a special needs parent I know how painful it is to want your child to get better. I know that at some stages in my journey I was angry and at other stages I felt like I was in mourning… there have also been times when I revisit feelings that I thought I had long past gotten over.
My advice to you as the parent is to love your child because they are still your child. They are not a diagnosis! Look after yourself because you need to be OK before you can help your child face the challenge he/she is going to face moving forward.
Study “autism” in its entirety and get as much information as possible but do not allow it to consume you to break point. Rest when you need to rest, talk to friends, family or a professional about your feelings, join a support group but learn to relax for the sake of your family.
Autism is not a race – Autism is a journey and if you are exhausted and totally overwhelmed you will not experience the joy off progression and the successes your child is going to achieve in the months to come.