Since 2008 the whole world has celebrated the “World Autism Awareness Day” on April 2th. The date was established by the United Nations (UN) and was created to bring society’s attention to the issue. For some years now, people, monuments and photos of profiles on social media are going beyond and ‘wearing’ in blue. That’s nice, but in addition to supporting this noble cause, I reinforce that all of us have always to be alert to the stages of child development and that, at the first sign of change, the baby is taken for an evaluation. Currently called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the disorder encompasses a number of aspects of childhood development that manifest in a greater or lesser degree of impairment – and, therefore, the notion of spectrum is used. The diagnosis of ASD began to include three main clinical features:
- Classic autism
The most well-known type, in which there is a compromise in the areas of interaction, behavior and language, and a relevant cognitive deficit.
- High-functioning autism, also know as Asperger Syndrome
The carriers are able to express themselves through speech and are very intelligent, above the population mean.
- Global Developmental Delay
It has characteristics of ASD, such as behavior change and interaction, but there is no closed diagnosis.
Main areas of difficulty:
- Social interaction: Absence or low frequency of visual contact, without spontaneous interaction with adults and children;
- Behavior: Repetitive, stereotyped (jumping, shaking hands or without swinging). Have limited interest in specific themes and toys.
- Language: Significant absence or delay in the development of oral language (comprehension and expression) and change in several language skills.
More recently, with the refinement of diagnostic methods and instruments, other characteristics have been observed as recurrent in the clinical manifestations of ASD: food disturbance (selectivity and / or color aversion, food flavors or textures) and sensory disorder (hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to one or several auditory sensory stimuli, such as visual, tactile, palate balance and body’s balance).
There are still people who are within the Spectrum and who have other associated disorders, such as, for example, cognitive deficit, Apraxia of Speech (motor speech disorder) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It is believed that, in the world, out of every 88 children born, one has characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite the increased incidence, there is still no definite cause for such a neurobiological disorder. Research shows that the first signs of ASD are already present from the beginning of the baby’s life. This is the reason why the sooner you start the intervention, the faster the child will gain. So, don’t wait … Do something!
By: Lílian Kuhn, Speech therapist with a specialization in Audiology and Master’s and PhD in Applied Linguistics and Language Studies. For ten years, it has been serving children and adults with language disorders.