Poor eye contact, moving around excessively, not responding to own name when called, deficits in social communication and interaction skills are some of the symptoms commonly associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects an individual’s social communication and interaction skills. The individual often finds it difficult to express themselves verbally and in a socially appropriate manner. Some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may present with a lack of interest in interacting with other people while other individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be interested in interacting with others, but do not know how to interact in a socially appropriate manner. For example, they may not know the importance of maintaining eye contact during conversations and come across as disinterested and rude, affecting how others perceive them.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder are usually observed at an early age. Some parents report their child displaying symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder as young as 6 months while others observe these symptoms when their child is 2 or 3 years old. There are also incidences where parents report their child developing typically until they are 12 months old after which they start to regress or lose their skills.

Other than poor eye contact, some symptoms commonly associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  • Repetitive actions (e.g., hand flapping, repeating specific phrases, spinning wheels of toy cars)
  • Restricted and sometimes, esoteric interests (e.g., strong interest in dinosaurs, traffic lights)
  • Lack of pointing gesture
  • No reciprocal smiles
  • Hyperfocus
  • Disinterest in other children
  • Strict adherence to routines

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder

There is currently no known cause for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Rate and incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2021 reported that 1 in 44 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder based on their most recent research in 2018 (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7011a1.htm). The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder was also 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls.

Assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

A trained and experienced psychologist will assess an individual and determine if they meet the criteria of Autism Spectrum Disorder as delineated by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V). The assessment process usually includes observation of the child under specific conditions and interviews with the parents using a set of standardised diagnostic tools. Other psychometric tests such as cognitive and adaptive behaviour assessments may be conducted to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the child. The most common diagnostic tools used are the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd Edition (ADOS – 2) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R).

Cure and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

There is currently no medical cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder are based largely on behavioural principles and aim to equip individuals with the necessary skills to thrive in society. Well-known, research-based interventions include Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). High quality intervention provided at an early age can improve the quality of life of these individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Spectrum Psychology Practice

Spectrum Psychology Practice is an Autism-focused psychology practice which provides both intervention and assessment for children, teenagers and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder from the age of 18 months onwards.

For young children, we focus on training parents based on the ESDM framework to provide intervention that is high quality and effective for their child. Parents who are trained can choose to be the sole provider of intervention for their child. They can also choose to complement the therapies provided by other service providers and provide more opportunities for their child to learn. Our psychologists will work closely with you and teach you the strategies that are individualised for you, your child and your family.

For teenagers, our psychologists are familiar with the various issues that are specific to this age group such as puberty-related concerns and relationships. For adults, finding ways to cope with the stressors of work and developing romantic relationships are some of the topics that we are familiar with. We are able to provide a safe and autism-friendly environment for them to discuss and explore the various issues that matter to them.

Our psychologists are experienced in conducting assessments for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We not only provide diagnostic assessments but also specialised assessments for students accessing mainstream curriculum who require additional support during school and national examinations.

To find out more about Spectrum Psychology Practice and our services, please visit our website at www.spectrumpsychology.sg or contact us here.