Have you been confronted with ASD?

Sometimes things don't turn out the way you expect. When you think that you're all set, that life can't surprise you anymore, bang, that's when a new challenge arises. That's particularly true when it comes to your children: bullying at school, an exam that your child failed, difficult personality, or sometimes something even bigger...

Last week, my daughter started a class in a music chool. She was sitting next to a boy, Peter, who she said was "quiet", "dreaming a lot", "didn't talk the same way as the other children", "looking for love and hugs" and "very clever". As she was confused on how she should behave with him, the teacher explained that Peter was an autistic child.

She simply explained, that Peter was "different" but gentle and clever. "Sometimes it takes them longer to do things but often they are the first ones to solve a mathematical problem!" she said.

Dr Giovanni Giaroli, who graduated at the Royal Children Hospital in Melbourne says: "Autism, know as Autistic Spectrum Disorder or ASD, is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them".

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction,  impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

Not all children with autism face the same level of difficulties. Mental health professionals classify autism into several types: Classic autism, Asperger's syndrome, Pervasive developmental disorder or atypical autism. Visit Healthdirect for more information on the various types of autism and their symptoms.

In this video, geneticist Wendy Chung shares what we know and what we don't know yet about autism.

Diagnostic: The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent in early childhood, typically before age three. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then regress. 

Autism is diagnosed in four times as many boys as girls. 

Treatment: At present there is no ‘cure’ for ASD, however treatment often comes in the form of different types of therapies, such as educational and behavioural programs.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, you can trust there are solutions. More and more organisations are offering their help.                                                              

  • Autism awareness provides a range of early intervention programs.
  • Schooling is an important aspect. There are many options to consider depending on the severity of your child's condition, including mainstream school, satellite/support class, special needs school, public, private, independent, or for some families, home schooling… The Australian Autism Handbook provides guidance on how to choose the right school.
  • Some companies are also starting to be more proactive to accomodate the needs of families with autistic children. For example last Christmas in the UK, Toys "R" Us offered quiet shopping hours for kids with autism, what a great initiative!
And this shows that even as parents who don't know what it is like to have a child with autism, we can help. By being understanding, by being supportive where we can, or simply by caring.
When my daughter asked me: "Mum, how shall I behave with Peter?", I didn't know the right answer and I simply said: "Just always be nice to him and give him love". That felt right, although I'm still not sure if there was a better answer to give. If you have a child with autism or have experience with this condition, please share your comments below to help the Cocoonababy parents' community behave in the most helpful ways possible!

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