Being On The Spectrum Explained [Information]

Being On The Spectrum Explained

You have probably heard the term, “on the spectrum”, but, like me, weren’t exactly sure what it meant. Oh, I didn’t think it had anything to do with rainbow colours, but I grew curious and did a little research. What I learned is the term refers to autism spectrum disorder, a wide range of mental conditions characterized by repetitive behaviours, difficulties with social skills, and challenges to speech and even non-verbal communication. It’s a condition that is more common than you think, it is estimated to affect around one in one-hundred people a year. It becomes noticeable in children as they grow into toddlers and, to the grave concern of their parents, don’t seem willing or able to perform all the expected milestones of early childhood development or engage in common behaviours. It can be upsetting and very stressful for both the bewildered parents and the autistic child.

Before we explore the condition further, I want to assure any concerned parents reading this and thinking “That’s my kid!” that there is indeed help for children who appear to be “on the spectrum”. The Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention program, or EIBI for short, pairs your child with a highly trained clinical therapist who will visit your home or pre-school for 12 to 25 hours of one-on-one therapy a week. These caring individuals can achieve outstanding results, and happy parents have described huge positive developments in their autistic child, with many of them growing up to lead perfectly normal lives.

The word “spectrum” pertains to the fact that autism is not a one size fits all condition. There are many different subtypes and symptoms, and individuals can manifest just one or many of them, each with their own distinct set of challenges, and even strengths! It is believed that the onset of autism is influenced by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Autism can be accompanied by medical issues such as gastrointestinal and sleep disorders, seizures, and sensory sensitivities such as an aversion to loud noises or bright lights. Challenges to mental health can also be present, manifesting as issues with depression, anxiety, and attention.

People with autism problem-solve, learn, and think differently than what is considered the norm. When they engage in what would be considered to be fun activities, they often prefer to be left alone with a toy and have difficulty joining other children in play. Their abilities can range from severely challenged to highly skilled. Some people on the spectrum don’t need much support in their daily lives and can live independently to the point where the people around them don’t even realize they have a condition, while others need significant help on a daily basis.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is well aware of the situation and maintains a website with extensive information on autism. Signs of autism tend to manifest around age 2 or 3, but some developmental delays can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Early intervention is highly recommended.


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