Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects an individual’s ability to interact and communicate with people and the world around them. Children often display restricted and repetitive behaviour such as hand flapping and have difficulties with understanding and using language appropriately.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties but being autistic will affect them in different ways, meaning people need different levels of support.
All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing. The exact cause of autism is still being investigated. Research into causes suggests that a combination of factors - genetic and environmental - may account for differences in our development.
There are approximately 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK. That’s more than 1 in 100. It tends to affect males more than females. Children can be diagnosed as autistic when they’re quite young, in some cases from the age of two. But not everyone is diagnosed early in life. It’s quite common for a child to not get their diagnosis until they are older, or even an adult particularly if they don’t have accompanying learning disabilities.
Some parents are understandably reluctant about getting a diagnosis for their child but often it can bring a sense of relief and understanding of what they have been experiencing. It is a good idea to speak to your GP or health visitor and take a list of your child’s behaviours and characteristics with you on the day. Once your GP is aware of your child’s condition, they will generally refer you for a specialist assessment and formal diagnosis. That is, an assessment carried by a team of professionals. The team might include, for example, a paediatrician, a speech and language therapist and a specialist psychologist.
The overall goal of occupational therapy is to help the person with autism improve his or her quality of life at home and in school. The therapist helps introduce, maintain, and improve skills so that people with autism can be as independent as possible.
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