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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum disorder is a complex group of disorders characterized by problems to varying degrees in both of the following areas:
1) Social communication -
- Difficulties in social interaction,
- Difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication,
2) Restricted and repetitive behaviours
- Repetitive behaviours and differences in sensory perception.
Autism is a developmental disorder. People with autism may behave, learn, communicate and interact differently from most other people. Their range of abilities can range from gifted to severely impaired. People with autism often have a unique perspective and can make a valuable contribution to society.

When do I talk to my paediatrician?
“Most mommies and daddies tell me ‘I thought there was a problem at 14 or 15 months...and they told me let’s wait and see because sometimes some kids grow out of it.’ Well, that’s not a good answer. We’ve got to make the distinction between less important problems, where we can wait and see from core problems, which involve a lack of reciprocity and a lack of getting to know your world. For these core problems, we have to act on it yesterday. We can’t wait nine months, we can’t wait two months.” (Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., Child Psychiatrist)

Ask your paediatrician if your child displays three or more of the following. If they aren’t sure then speak to a neurodevelopmental paediatrician, paediatric neurologist or contact autism South Africa ( ):
• Little awareness of others.
• Self-injurious behaviour, e.g. head banging, scratching or biting.
• Poor imaginative play eg cannot pretend a block is a car
• Unusual habits such as rocking, hand flapping, spinning of objects etc.
• The development of speech and language may be atypical, absent or delayed.
• Indifference to, or dislike of being touched, held or cuddled.
• Minimal reaction to verbal input and sometimes acts as though he/she is deaf.
• Sense of touch, taste, sight, hearing and/or smell may be heightened or lowered.
• Changes in routine or the environment may cause distress.
• Sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason
• Pursues activities repetitively and cannot be influenced by suggestions of change.
• Uneven gross/fine motor skills.
• Inappropriate attachment to objects.
• Abnormal sleeping patterns.
• Displays extreme distress and/or tantrums for no apparent reason
• Prefers to play alone.
• Difficulty in interacting with others and little or no eye contact.
• No real fear of dangers.
• Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands
• Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
• Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
• Does not play peek-a-boo
• Doesn’t point to show things he/she is interested in
• Rarely smiles socially

Taken from Possible signs of Autism (Autism South Africa,

Jackie Paterson
Occupational Therapist, Regional - Makaton Tutor
082 944 8331

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