Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed at an early age.

The term spectrum means that signs and symptoms vary in occurrence and severity and each individual is affected differently along that span. It is more prevalent in boys than girls but the acceptance of a consensual body of theories around its origin has proved ultimately elusive so far, one being able to easily find new scientific articles on the subject every month.

Symptoms affect three major areas, namely social interaction, communication and behavior (stereotypical and repetitive patterns of interest and activities), and vary widely; some individuals may be severely affected whilst others will not. Parents are usually the first to notice certain reactions/absence of reactions, patterns, behaviors that indicate something isn’t quite well with their child. More to it, sometimes it is somewhat difficult to have a diagnosis delivered, which increases considerably parent’s anxiety and pain.

Certain aspects of ASD affect intensely the child’s and the family’s everyday life. A child with ASD for instance might have a hard time coping with routine changes, which for some children can be a different car route to school, a new tooth brush, or a different brand of peanut butter. This difficulty can lead to very intense and uncontrollable tantrums that can easily enough occur in the family’s home or at the supermarket. Daily routines involving hygiene or feeding may not be independent and need constant support or supervision. Self-stimulatory behaviors (such as echolalia, flapping, jumping) affect the child’s ability to learn and integrate his/her surrounding environment.

How can we help?

–          By providing coping strategies for the family members; observing and making suggestions for changes in daily routines and transitions so they become as smooth as possible

–          One on one work with the child: improving skills, changing inadequate behaviors, providing a space and time for creativity and expression

–          Offering psychotherapy to family members in order to cope with emotional issues (such as anxiety, depression)

Léa Pereira

MA Clinical Psychology