Autism is a life-long disorder of development which affects the way a child thinks and processes information. It affects 1-2 children out of 1000 and is 4 times more frequent in boys. Symptoms are usually present before the age of 3 years but may not be recognized.
The main affected areas in autism are :
2. Social Interaction
3. Repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities
Autism is considered part of a group of disorders called Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Another disorder from this group is Asperger's Syndrome where the child's language development and cognitive skills may be normal.
No single cause of autism has been found but some of the possible causes may be genetic factors and chemical imbalance in the brain. Mental retardation may be present in 75% of autistic children.
Signs & symptoms
The signs and symptoms are apparent in the 3 main affected areas :
1. Delayed, abnormal or no speech
2. Abnormal non verbal communication e.g. not gesturing much
3. Inability to pretend during play
4. Inability to have conversation with others
1. Poor eye contact and lack of facial expression
2. Unawareness of feelings of others
3. Self-preoccupation without sharing experiences with others
4. Playing on their own
5. Inability to make friends
Repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities
* Repeated body movements e.g. hand flapping, rocking back and forth, head banging
* Preoccupation with parts of objects e.g. wheels of a toy car
* Distress over small changes in environment.
* Insistence on following routines rigidly
* Having only one or two areas of interest.
Persons with autism may present with different symptoms at different ages.
1. Early childhood - hyperactivity, temper tantrums
2. Late childhood - aggressiveness, self harm
3. Adolescence and adulthood - depression, epilepsy
Input from various professionals is needed to :
* Improve social skills
* Encourage more socially acceptable behaviour
* Develop verbal and non verbal communication
* Help families cope
There is no medication that cures autism but drugs for some symptoms that occur with autism e.g. :
* Aggressive behaviour
* Anxiety may be available
Modalities of intervention include :
Speech and language therapy
- To improve the child's communication
- To improve social skills e.g. eye contact, attention and concentration and to help with the child?s activities of daily living.
- Multi sensory stimulation
- To decrease temper tantrums and aggressive behaviour
Autistic children need to be registered with Dept. of Special Education, Ministry of Education so that their educational needs can be catered for. The forms can be obtained from the nearest education department or school. There are also non-government organizations which provide education for autistic children e.g. National Autistic Society of Malaysia (NASOM).
Children with autism can be registered with the Dept. of Social Welfare by obtaining forms from the nearest Welfare Dept.