Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

“Autism is really more of a difference to be worked with rather than a monolithic enemy that needs to be slain or destroyed.”
—Stephen Shore, PHD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodivergent condition that impacts how a person interacts and communicates with the world around them. A lifelong condition that typically presents during infancy, a person with autism is challenged by conventional learning, social interactions, and repetitive behaviours.

This can significantly impact their and loved ones’ daily lives, confidence and self-esteem, especially if the condition is undiagnosed or appropriate strategies are not in place to support them.

Autism presents differently in different people and can vary in severity. Many people on the autism spectrum are able to live completely independently, others need support in multiple aspects of their daily life. Yet there are certain qualities that are present in almost every person on the autism spectrum: honesty, an ability to live in the present, unwavering passion, a photographic or near perfect memory and more.

At IMI, we believe that understanding a person with autism in their entirety, appropriately supporting them and their loved ones to manage the challenges they face, and tailoring strategies to help them thrive their way can lay the foundation for a happier, more fulfilling life.

Spotting the early signs of autism can be incredibly challenging. While autism presents differently in every child, here are some signs that may prompt a caregiver to seek a diagnosis.

At age one, children with autism may not pay attention to new faces; smile, babble or laugh; follow moving objects with eyes; speak; respond to loud noises; like physical contact; crawl or stand even when supported; use gestures like waving or pointing.

At age two, they may not imitate actions; understand and follow simple instructions; speak; walk, or maybe they only walk on their toes.

At age 3, you may notice that your child doesn't use short phrases; show interest in other children; play make believe; manipulate small objects; cannot remain stable on their feet and is prone to falling; still does not understand simple instructions.

From age 3-5, they may not point to or share observations or experiences with others; make eye contact; speak or may have unusual speech patterns; like physical contact; like social situations, preferring to be alone; engage in play; develop an obsessive interest in certain toys.

Children with autism may have marked repetitive movements, such as hand-shaking or flapping, prolonged rocking or spinning of objects; extreme resistance to change in routines or their environment; difficulties with toilet training; sleeping problems; extreme reactions to certain noises and/or busy public places.

From age 5 through to teenage years, they may have difficulty taking turns while conversing peers, perhaps dominating conversations with their favourite topic; interpreting the non-verbal communication of peers and adults; reading social cues and the unwritten rules of friendship.

They may have

  • unusual speech patterns or a monotonous tone
  • a desire to be alone, finding time spent with others stressful and exhausting
  • a rigid need to following rules at school and in sport and games
  • intense and high-focused interest in a particular subject
  • unusual physical movements, such as touching, biting, rocking or finger flicking
  • motor difficulties, extreme clumsiness and/or significant impairment in motor coordination (e.g. dyspraxia)
  • sensory sensitivity to noise, light, touch, smell, taste
  • a need to follow routines to feel secure
  • a tendency toward aggression when overwhelmed
  • anxiety
  • accompanying conditions like Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders, epilepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It’s not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed with autism. In fact, it can often be a relief when an adult realises their challenges – at home, at work, and in social settings  - is a result of undiagnosed autism. At every age and every life stage, a diagnosis can be a turning point.

For now, the exact cause of autism is unknown. A plethora of studies suggest it’s a combination of developmental, genetic and environmental factors.

If you suspect a loved one is on the autism spectrum, we encourage you to seek a diagnosis as early as possible.

An accurate diagnosis by a trained professional can help a child or adult understand themselves better, and caregivers can gain a better understanding of how their loved ones process the world.

Diagnosis allows for acknowledgement, acceptance, and the creation of new and effective approaches to living and learning.

This can help reduce accompanying symptoms like depression, negative thoughts, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety.

Our clinical psychologists can diagnose autism through psycho-educational assessments, clinical observation and thorough conversations.

Through positive connection, they can work with you or your child to understand unique learning styles, strengths and challenging areas, and identify personalised strategies for support.

This may include giving guidelines to your child’s school to provide a more supportive environment for your child’s learning.

Psychotherapy and counselling to help children and adults, and perhaps family members, accept or address aspects of autism which may impact their way of being and relating to others. Psychotherapy offers a safe space to enhance self-esteem, reframe negative thought patterns, or assist with impulsive behaviours.

Caregivers may find individual or family therapy of value, helping them understand how to better support a loved one with autism and ways of relating to each other.

What’s next?

Simply call +852 2523 7121, or connect with us below, and we'll be in touch shortly.

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