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FAQ ~ Q & A

Questions & Answers

1. What is Autism?
  Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects individual ability to communicate, interact with others, as well as creative thinking. It is not a psychological disorder caused by the environment.
2. What are the characteristics of Autism?
  The symptoms of Autism vary with individuals. Generally, they have:
  Impairments in social interaction
  • Avoids eye contact (do not look at people when others are talking to them)
  • Play alongside other children rather than with other (but may be able to play with adults)
  • Do not response to their name (act like they are deaf)
  • Unable to empathy others feelings (they may laugh when others cry)
  • Show no interest in people (or only interested in particular body parts like hair)
  • Lack of facial expressions (may suddenly laugh or cry without apparent reason)
  • Show no interest to interact with others (therefore not motivated to comply to instructions)
  • Do not share personal experience and feeling with others (do not share with parents what happened at school)
  Impairments in language and communication
  • Delayed development of speech or totally lack of speech (unable to say “daddy” “mummy” even at the age of 2 to 3)
  • Do not try to communicate wants and needs or seek for help
  • Indicate needs by using adult’s hands
  • Echolalia (able to repeat questions or memorizing TV advertisement like parrots, while not able to tell you what they want)
  • For those who can speak, they find it difficult to hold a conversation with others.
  Lack of flexible thinking/ imagination and repetitive behaviour
  • Have fixed and repetitive body movements like hand-flapping and body spinning.
  • Have special interest with parts of objects or attach to unusual objects (e.g carry a piece of string around or starring at fan)
  • Like to spin and arrange objects (do not play cars by pushing around, instead they may only spin the tyre of the car or arrange the cars into lines)
  • May have difficulty coping with change and get anxious if their daily routine is altered (feel anxious when using a different route to go home or refuse to drink from a different water bottle)
  • May have difficulty with imaginative and pretend play
  • Mentally retarded or uneven skills development (e.g. able to play 100 pieces puzzle but not able to go to toilet)
  • Hyperactivity or short attention span
  • Lost temper easily when needs and wants are not met
  • Aggressive behavior (may scratch, bite or hit others)
  • Self-injurious behavior (head banging, hand biting)
  • Destructive behavior (break window glasses, peel out wallpaper)
  • Over or under sensitivity to sensory stimulation: visual, auditory, smell, taste and touch(e.g. they might draw back when hugged, or they might sensitive to telephone ringing tones but do not response to his own name)

Autistic individuals do not have distinctive appearance, some even have better appearance compare to others. A misconception of autistic individuals is that they will be hiding in the corner and remain silent. However, most autistic children are actually hyperactive.

3. How is Autism being diagnosed?
  Autism is a disorder which is diagnosed solely by behavior observation. Neither blood test nor brain scan can diagnose Autism. Not all signs and symptoms above will manifest in an individual. But if an individual has signs and symptoms involving difficulties in social skills, difficulties in language and communication skills and lack of flexible thinking and present repetitive behaviour, he will be diagnosed as autistic. Assessment and diagnosis have to be done by child psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician, or clinical psychologist. Autism can be diagnosed by the age 2 to 3.
4. Does every autistic child share the same signs and symptoms?
  No, they are labeled as Autistic because they share some similar characteristics. They do not interact with people much, some do not even talk. They have difficulty building relationship with others. They like doing tasks with their preferred way, and focus completely on the things, activities or subject they are attracted to.
  However, Autism is a spectrum disorder as the underlying difficulties shows in different ways. For examples, some of the individuals with Autism are intelligent and they can perform well academically, some cannot even read and write. Some dislike being touched or annoyed by sound, while some others are unresponsive to sound. Even by comparing two “intermediate-autistic” children, the difference between them can be very distinctive.
5. What is the cause of Autism?
  The cause is unknown. Studies showed it is not associated with parenting skills, but is associated with the damage in the brain and central nervous system. Many studies have been done to find out the cause, yet no definite factor that directly causes Autism. However, factors like genetic predisposition, viral infection during pregnancy, metabolic diseases or brain damage predispose the children to Autism. Recently some professionals argued that Autism may be caused by pollution in our environment or the mercury that exists in vaccine. But these still need to be proven by further research.
6. Is Autism a common disorder?
  Autism increases tremendously in recent 20 years. It increases from 2 to 6 in 1000 individuals to 1 in 88 individuals. In Malaysia, 1 out of 625 individuals is autistic. The ratio of male to female is 4 to 1.
7. Does Autism come with other disorder?
  Autism can shows up by itself or co morbid with other disorders like attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), mental retardation, learning difficulties or epilepsy.
8. What is the difference between Autism and intellectual impairment?
  An intellectual impairment child usually has delayed in all areas of development, whereas an autistic child has imbalanced skills development. They might be lacking of language and communication skills, but they have normal motor skills development (comparable with normal children), or they may even excel in certain field (such as art or music). Differentiating Autism from other disabilities is important because wrong diagnosis leads to inappropriate treatment.
9. Is there any cure for Autism?
  Unfortunately, there is no complete cure for Autism. Some of the treatments claimed to reduce most of the autistic symptoms, but the underlying impairments will still remain. Although Autism does not cure completely, it does not mean that there is no hope. Through special education and therapies, autistic individuals are still able to learn to take care of themselves, excel in academic, or even find a job and live independently in the future.
10. Did I do something wrong that caused my child becoming autistic?
  Do not blame yourself. Autism is not caused by bad parenting skills. It typically occurs in all races, ethnic groups, education level and social classes. You did not cause Autism in your child, so do not blame yourself, in fact you should be praised for the work that you have done for your child to have a better life.
11. Why is early intervention important for children with Autism?
  Similar to other disorder, the effectiveness of treatment is higher if Autism is diagnosed in the earlier stage. This is because in the early stage, behavior problems are not rooted deep and it is easier to change the child’s behavior. Besides, human brain is designed to learn speech best before the age of 6. It will be much more difficult to acquire speech after this golden period.
  Studies also showed that complete and intense early intervention plays an important role on whether an autistic child is able to go back to the mainstream or not. There were cases showing autistic children who improved a lot and rapidly after intervention, and eventually they behave normally like any other people. The most important thing is you have to find the right intervention that suits your child.
12. Since it is so important to have early intervention, why Autism cannot be diagnosed before the age of 2?
  The main reason is language and social skills of any children develop only after the age of 2. Before that, autistic children show no difference from normal children. Unless children age below 2 show obvious autistic symptoms like reluctance to be hugged, avoid eye contact or unresponsive to his/her name. In these cases, a doctor would suspect Autism, however a confirm diagnosis can only be made if the symptoms persist after the age of 2.
13. Is that possible that a child having Autism only after age 10?
  No. Symptoms will manifest obviously around age 2. If a child develops normally, physically and mentally, has got signs of Autism out of a sudden, it is most probably due to psychological problems which need counseling.

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