Understanding and Dealing with the challenges of Autism

Chapter One

Autism - The puzzling disorder

The word Autism derives from the Greek word ‘auto’ which refers to self and directed from within. The condition is viewed as focusing on one’s own interests and desires through an inability to focus beyond oneself. An unthinkably confusing and bizarre condition in which medical science desperately continues to search for answers with the hope of finding a cure in the not too distant future. The diagnosis of Autism shocks and terrifies the parents and families who feel that their worst nightmare has just come true. Starting with trauma, shame and denial, helplessness, guilt, blame, shattered hopes and broken marriages all become part of the process which impacts on the lives of the Autistic individuals and their families. Autism continues to be on the rise with little knowledge and much debate over its causes and puzzlement over the extremity in its effects.


The onset

Autism is a condition in which the disability is not easily recognised during the early stages of development. Though, in babies who display physical disabilities, a form of developmental disorder can be recognised from the time of birth. However, at times when there are no other disabilities present, two and a half years of age is a time to assess development in young children. Autism manifests between the times before birth to three years of age. Babies who have been different from birth are referred to as having ‘early onset Autism’ whilst others who have developed normally and shown signs of major regression indicate that these children had ‘late onset regressive Autism’. Diagnosis often occurs during the toddler years, which leaves the parents to enjoy the baby years without any doubt that something could be wrong.


Detecting a difference before diagnosis

Parents may indicate concerns over their child being deaf due to a lack of response to the child’s name or to commands being given to the child.

Ÿ  A parent may be confused as to why their child walks away to be alone or avoids social interaction

Ÿ  Behavioural oddities when comparing against a child’s peer group

Ÿ  The level of hyper-activity that keeps parents awake all day and all night will raise the question “does my child never get tired?”

Ÿ  Adverse reaction to drugs and sedatives



Parents of an Autistic child are faced with the long and stressful process of obtaining a diagnosis. Waiting for a diagnosis is an anxious time due to the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Dealing with day-to-day work and functioning normally is difficult when awaiting a diagnosis such as Autism, as the impact on your life is immense. Regardless, the recognition of the diagnosis is an essential part of the process which will assist in obtaining services and steering parents towards suitable treatment options.

Parents are faced with tiresome and endless demands. Coming to terms with the knowledge of Autism being a life long disability, dealing with the lack of public awareness of Autism, and attitudes towards Autism from friends and family are a few of the hurdles that parents are required to come to grips with.

A specialist will use a set of diagnostic standards to set Autism apart from other developmental disorders. Behaviour and ability are assessed according to what is typically expected of a child of the same age. Information will be gathered through observations of the child performing tasks, while taking note of the child’s behaviours. On a non verbal level, intelligence is assessed through discussions with the parents, and through the child’s ability to do puzzles and solve problems through everyday tasks.