Autism/Autistic Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger’s Syndrome)

What is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?

Autistic spectrum disorder is a life-long, non-progressive developmental disorder affecting social and communication skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder. The symptoms and characteristics of autistic spectrum disorder can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. It is defined by difficulties with social communication and social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests.

There is tremendous confusion with the terms used to describe the disorder and over the years a variety of terms have been used. The new diagnostic criteria for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses the term autistic spectrum disorder.

Sensory Integration and Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Many children and adults with autistic spectrum disorder have problems processing sensory information. This has been recognised in the new diagnostic criteria in DSM-5.   NICE guidelines also recognise the significant sensory difficulties in children and adults with autistic spectrum disorder.  Recent research has suggested that between 75 – 95 % of children with autistic spectrum disorder have significant problems processing sensory information. Temple Grandin, a woman with autistic spectrum disorder, discusses in her books her sensitivity to light touch and sounds. She tells how she used deep-pressure touch to calm and organise her nervous system and reduce her hypersensitivity to touch.

Children with sensory processing problems may present with some of the following difficulties:

  • Distress with certain sounds
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Avoidance of certain textures
  • Dislikes having hair, fingernails or toenails cut
  • Aversion to certain smells and tastes
  • Fear of heights and movement
  • Disregard of sudden or loud sounds
  • Unaware of pain
  • Unaware of body sensations such as hunger, hot or cold
  • Lack of attention to environment, persons or things

Assessment of your child

We specialise in assessment and therapy for children and young adults with autistic spectrum disorder. We see children across the spectrum from those who attend mainstream schools to those whose difficulties are so severe that they are in a specialised placement. A large proportion of the children and young adults that we work with exhibit severe behavioural problems such as self-injurious behaviour, causing real challenges to parents and health and education staff working with the child or young person. In these cases a coordinated and assessment driven care plan are essential to avoid reinforcing and escalating difficulties. Such an approach emphasises the importance of understanding the sensory difficulties underpinning the extreme behaviour as a first step to addressing the causes of the observed behaviour. Ongoing case management, training and review are an integral part of the overall approach provided by our services in such complex cases.

Once commissioned we will carry out a comprehensive assessment in order to identify the extent and nature of your child’s difficulties. We will select those assessments that we feel are most appropriate for your child, following discussion with you at the initial consultation. If your child has sensory processing problems we will carry out a comprehensive sensory assessment. This will involve using standardised questionnaires, observation of your child in familiar environments eg home, nursery, school, discussion with parents and others involved with your child. Following the assessment we will arrange a feedback appointment to discuss the results, offer you advice and recommend therapy options that may be appropriate.

Please contact us if you would like any further details.

"You have really made a difference in our understanding of Joshua which really improves all our lives"

Sally - Joshua's Mum

Therapy for Autistic Spectrum Disorder

The practice specialises in using sensory integration as a treatment approach when working with a child with autistic spectrum disorder. Although other treatment approaches will also be used if appropriate for your child. The intervention will be child-centred and planned around the needs of your child and the goals they/you want to achieve.

Therapy may involve one or more of the following options:

  • Consultation with parents and teachers
  • Individual therapy
  • Programmes for home and/or school
  • Environmental modifications
  • Providing awareness training at your child’s school

Useful links for information on Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Visit our links and resources page for further information on autistic spectrum disorder.

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