Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - HEALTH MATTERS -

TMy daugh­ter, who is three, has just been di­ag­nosed with autism, and I am find­ing it very hard to ac­cept the di­ag­no­sis. She is af­fec­tion­ate, makes eye con­tact and loves Montes­sori school, and her teach­ers. She also loves play­ing with other kids and her cousins. The only thing that I ever no­ticed

about her was the de­lay in her speech. Is there a chance that this di­ag­no­sis is in­cor­rect? Can chil­dren with autism dis­play all the char­ac­ter­is­tics I have de­scribed above about my daugh­ter? My fam­ily think I am in de­nial, and maybe I am. I would love a bit more in­for­ma­tion on the

range of be­hav­iours you have seen in chil­dren with autism. he tim­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion of symp­toms of autism can vary greatly from child to child. Some chil­dren show signs very early, whereas in oth­ers it may be more de­layed. Chil­dren may ap­pear to de­velop nor­mally ini­tially and then regress, of­ten af­ter 24 months of age.

Autism is not just one con­di­tion but a range of dis­or­ders re­ferred to as the Autis­tic Spec­trum. There are spe­cific di­ag­nos­tic cri­te­ria that help de­fine autism. When some­one is di­ag­nosed with autism they may ex­hibit some or all of these in vary­ing de­grees of sever­ity. Dur­ing the di­ag­nos­tic process a child will be as­sessed along a range of ver­bal and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

One con­di­tion aligned with the autis­tic spec­trum re­lates specif­i­cally to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It is the So­cial (Prag­matic) Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Dis­or­der. Cri­te­ria in­clude per­sis­tent dif­fi­cul­ties in the so­cial use of ver­bal and non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This in­cludes: deficits in us­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion for so­cial pur­poses, im­pair­ment of the abil­ity to change com­mu­ni­ca­tion to match con­text or the lis­ten­ers needs, dif­fi­culty fol­low­ing rules of com­mu­ni­ca­tion such as tak­ing turns and dif­fi­culty un­der­stand­ing what is not ex­plic­itly said such as metaphors, id­ioms or hu­mour. These deficits then re­sult in dif­fi­culty ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cat­ing, par­tic­i­pat­ing so­cially, achiev­ing aca­dem­i­cally or later in oc­cu­pa­tional per­for­mance.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion lim­i­ta­tions of­ten start in early devel­op­ment, but they may only be­come more ob­vi­ous once a per­son has de­vel­oped to a stage where more ad­vanced com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are needed.

Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der it­self is de­fined as “per­sis­tent deficits in so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion across mul­ti­ple con­texts”, DSM IV. Deficits here may in­clude dif­fi­culty in

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