Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Dr. Fauziah Zainal Abidin
Consultant Paediatrician with special interest in Developmental Paediatrics
Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital 088-518 888

“Ahmad’s mother has been concerned about him for sometime now. At three years of age, he has not started talking like the rest of his siblings. He has not even called her “mama” and sometimes she was not even sure whether he can hear well. He hardly looked at her or responded to her calls. He would be quite happy being on his own rather than playing with his siblings.

He somehow finds watching the wheels of a moving car or the turning of a fan more fascinating than anything else. She is also concerned with his feeds. He does not like anything else with his rice and efforts to feed him the fried chicken or meatballs have resulted in almost battlefield like scenes and a
meltdown for Ahmad. She had talked to her husband and her own mother about her concerns but she would be reassured that he would “grow out of it” as one of her cousin’s did before.”

What is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition which affects an individual in the areas of communication, social interactions and having restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activity. This affects the individuals ability to interact with others and they often find the world to be a confusing place as they have difficulty adjusting and adapting to new and unfamiliar people and surroundings.

They may also have sensitivity issues, either being too sensitive or less sensitive in any of the five senses, hence the preference for or avoidance of certain foods, noises, clothing or even certain lights. Every individual with ASD is also different. The term itself reflects that no two people with ASD are alike, even though they all have difficulties in communication and socialisation, each will have a unique combination of character and so may seem quite different.

ASD affects around one in every 100 people and is diagnosed 4 to 5 times more common in boys than in girls. Although it is a life long condition and there is no cure, early intervention can have a tremendous results in helping those affected to live to their full potential.



What are the causes?

On a positive note, there are many treatment options, social services and programmes that can help. The problem is usually how to get access to them. Meeting with a healthcare provider or an educator can be a good source of information. Talking to an Autism Support group can help find local resources.

Meeting with a Paediatrician can help evaluate a child’s development and rule out other problems that may be helped and subsequently referred to the other experts who will develop an intervention plan for the child. Going through the transition to adulthood should be dealt with together with family members, healthcare service providers and other professionals.

Communications and reports should be kept well. Some adults with ASD are able to achieve independence to a certain extent thus self-advocay is an important aspect for individuals and family members with ASD. Through Self advocay, they may take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care in their own community and else where.

For more information about this topic, please feel free to contact Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital at 088-518 888 

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