Apr 15, 2024

"Does My Child Have Autism?”

In Canada, approximately 1 in 66 people are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), highlighting its prevalence. Many of the diagnoses take place in early childhood. Recognizing early signs is crucial, and we're here to guide you on what to look for and when to consult your doctor. 

 

Understanding Autism

Autism (also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. It presents in many ways and can affect sensory processing, social communication, the ability to carry out certain tasks, and emotional and behavioural regulation. Every autistic person has a unique combination of characteristics, skills and support needs. Many individuals may also have co-occurring conditions. (e.g., medical, neurological, or developmental) Since everyone experiences the condition differently (which is why there is a spectrum), support should match your individual needs. 


Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd.html  

 

The importance of an early diagnosis

Early detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is crucial because it allows for timely intervention and support, which can significantly enhance the developmental outcomes of Autistic children.

Therapies, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioural interventions, are more effective when initiated during the formative years when the brain is highly adaptable.

 

Early detection also provides parents and caregivers with the knowledge and resources to understand and address their child's unique needs. This understanding fosters a supportive environment that facilitates the child's social, emotional, and cognitive development. Additionally, identifying autism early helps establish appropriate educational strategies tailored to the child's learning style. Ultimately, early detection empowers families to navigate Autism, promoting a more inclusive and fulfilling life for individuals on the spectrum.

 

Is there a cure for autism?

Autism is often seen through a medical lens, which can lead to negative ideas that autism is something that needs to be fixed or cured. There is no cure for autism; however, with the appropriate individualized support, Autistic people can lead meaningful lives, contribute to our communities and achieve personal goals.  

 

Geneva Centre for Autism and other autism agencies are here to support autistic individuals of all ages and their families through their unique journeys. Programs that support development, skill building, community engagement, and life transitions – as well as community advocacy initiatives – can significantly improve outcomes for autistic people with diverse needs throughout their lifespan.  

 

Early Signs 

Diagnosing ASD isn't one-size-fits-all. Children may exhibit barely detectable, low-support needs autism or have more characteristics. Below are some key things to look out for. Remember, no single   characteristic confirms autism, so here is  a collection of common indicators and developmental differences 

 

Social Interaction:

  • Struggles with grasping social cues 
  • Challenges with forming and maintaining relationships 
  • Limited interest in or understanding of other people's emotions 

 

Communication:

  • Speech and language development delays or absence 
  • Trouble starting and keeping conversations  
  • Difficulties understanding non-verbal cues like gestures and facial expressions 


Repetitive Behaviors and Interests:

  • Participating in repetitive sounds, movements or behaviours like hand-flapping, rocking 
  • Developing intense, narrow interests with particular focus or intensity  

 

Sensory Sensitivities:

  • Experiencing heightened or reduced sensitivities to sensory stimuli like lights, sounds, textures or smells 
  • Displaying unregulated responses to sensory input, such as not reacting to pain or strongly reacting to certain sensations  

 

Rigidity and Routine:

  • Preferring routines and rituals, showing resistance to changes in daily activities 
  • Struggling to adapt to unexpected changes 

 

Screening Tools and Assessments for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

In Canada, healthcare professionals rely on standardized tools and assessments to gauge a child's developmental progress and pinpoint signs of autism.  

 

Who can diagnose Autism?

An ASD diagnosis requires a collaborative effort among various healthcare professionals, each bringing unique expertise to the table. Here's who you may encounter during the diagnostic journey: 

 

Pediatricians and Developmental Pediatricians:

  • These doctors specialize in child health and development, with developmental pediatricians focusing on behavioural nuances crucial for diagnosing ASD. 

 

Child Psychologists and Psychiatrists:

  • Experts in child behaviour and development, psychologists employ assessments, observations and interviews to evaluate ASD symptoms comprehensively. 
     

Other Professionals: 

The following is a list of a few other professions that provide expertise and support to people with autism and may work together on a Multidisciplinary team.  

 

Speech-Language Pathologists:

  • Assessing language and communication skills, these professionals play a vital role in ASD diagnosis.  


Occupational Therapists:

  • Addressing sensory and motor challenges, occupational therapists help identify issues impacting daily activities and routines.  


Educational Specialists:

  • These professionals, including special education teachers and educational psychologists, offer insights into a child's behaviour and learning.  

 

Remember, the diagnostic journey often involves teamwork among these specialists. While processes may vary, reaching out to your child's healthcare provider is the first step in understanding the diagnostic process. 

 

When to See a Doctor

If you notice delays in speech and language development, social struggles, repetitive behaviours or sensory sensitivities in your child, consulting a healthcare professional is wise. Trust your instincts and don't hesitate to speak with your doctor. Remember, an early diagnosis can greatly improve access to supports for children with autism. 

 

We’re Here to Help

Being well-informed is the first step toward taking action for your child and your family. At the Geneva Centre for Autism, we’re here to help. Our empathetic, experienced staff provide –family-centred clinical services, ensuring you have the knowledge and support you need to navigate this journey with confidence and care. 

 

Speak to our friendly staff

 

 

Reviewed by clinical staff at the Geneva Centre for Autism