What is Autism
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that affects social communication, interactions, and behaviour.
- Signs of ASD can vary, but difficulty with social interactions, communication challenges, repetitive behaviours, and restricted interests are common.
Three levels of Autism
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ,a person with Autism may need three levels of support
- Level 1: A person with autism may have social challenges that need some help. They may have trouble starting conversations, responding to others, or making friends without the right forms of help. They may also have a need for routine and organisation.
- Level 2: At this level, the person needs more support than at Level 1. Communication challenges can make it hard to have coherent conversations or understand nonverbal cues. Daily routines and changes may also cause significant distress.
- Level 3: The person needs the highest level of support. They may avoid interacting with others, have difficulty making friends or participating in imaginative play, and find it very hard to change their focus or routines. Repetitive behaviours may affect their ability to function, and communication challenges will be significant.
- First, the child receives developmental check-ups during routine healthcare visits at around 18 and 24 months old. During these check-ups, a doctor talks to the parent or caregiver about the child’s behaviour, development, and family history, and looks for signs of autism.
- If the doctor suspects autism, the child will move on to the second stage of evaluation, involving a team of healthcare professionals that will conduct further assessments to determine if the child has autism and what kind of support they may need.
- Additional tests may be required to rule out other conditions.
- For older individuals, symptoms of autism may be noticed by caregivers, parents, teachers, or other people who interact with them, leading to a medical evaluation
Tools for screening
- One common screening tool is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) Revised. This is a 20-question test for children aged 16-30 months.
- The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a general developmental screen that assesses developmental challenges at specific ages.
- The Indian Scale for Assessment of Autism is designed to assess the severity of autism.
- Similarly, the Childhood Autism Rating Scale rates individuals on a scale from ‘normal’ to ‘severe’ and yields a composite score indicating a level of autism.