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 neurodevelopment 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 itself differently in every child, here are some signs that may prompt a caregiver to seek a diagnosis.

At age one, the child does not

  • pay attention to new faces
  • smile, babble or laugh
  • follow moving object with eyes
  • speak a word
  • appear to respond to loud noises
  • like physical contact
  • crawl and cannot stand when supported
  • use gestures such as waving or pointing

At age two, a child does not

  • walk or walks only on his toes
  • speak
  • imitate actions
  • understand and follow simple instructions

At age 3, a child does not

  • use short phrases
  • understand simple instructions
  • show interest in other children
  • manipulate small objects
  • show interest in ‘make-believe’ play
  • remain stable on his feet and is prone to falling.

From age 3-5, a child does not

  • point to or share observations or experiences with others
  • make eye contact
  • speak or has unusual speech patterns
  • like physical contact
  • like social situations, preferring to be alone
  • engage in play or s/he develops an obsessive interest in certain toys

The child 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 onward through to teenage years, a child does not

  • take turns while conversing peers, perhaps dominating conversations with their favourite topic
  • interpret the non-verbal communication of peers and adults
  • read social cues and the unwritten rules of friendship

The child 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.

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 is essential for the person, loved ones and caregivers. A child or adult will understand themselves better and you will gain a better understanding of how they process the world. A professional diagnosis and assessment allow for acknowledgement, acceptance, and the creation of new and effective approaches to living and learning. This can help to reduce accompanying symptoms like depression, negative thoughts, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety. Our clinical psychologists can also provide guidelines to teachers and schools to allow them to more effectively support a child with autism.

For now, the exact cause of autism is unknown. A plethora of studies suggest it’s a combination of developmental, genetic and environmental factors. At IMI, we take an integrated healing approach to neurodevelopment conditions. We seek to identify and put in place a personalised plan to manage the factors that exacerbate the challenges faced by a person on the autism spectrum.

Research and our own 25 years’ clinical experience prove that natural medicine and psychotherapeutic approaches can be immensely beneficial for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

Drawing on IMI’s Integrated Healing Approach, we strive to identify and manage every contributing factor. Emotions. Lifestyle habits. Diet. Environmental factors and more. Depending on your or your child’s needs, we’ll put in place a personalised, long-term plan to bolster strengths and minimise challenges. This may include:

Clinical psychological assessment to 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 to support you. 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. The process of psychotherapy offers a safe space to enhance self-esteem, reframe negative thought patterns, or assist with impulsive behaviours. Caregivers may also find individual or family therapy with our psychotherapists of value in understanding how better to support a loved one living with autism, useful coping mechanisms, ways of relating to each other and encouraging their strengths.

Naturopathy to identify a myriad of factors that are impacting your or your child’s way of being. Lifestyle factors. Gut health. Nutrition. Food intolerances. Exposure to heavy metals and more can all significantly impact a person on the autism spectrum. Working hand-in-hand with an adult or child, our naturopaths can identify triggers through careful analysis of their medical history and, when required, diagnostic testing.

Informed with the facts, they may recommend personalised herbs, naturopathic supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes, homeopathic remedies and/or complementary therapies. All natural, all beneficial.

Complementary therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathy to help manage accompany symptoms such as epilepsy, Tic Syndrome, and ADHD.

Can we help you?

Yes, we can. Diagnosis. Tools and techniques to thrive. Emotional support. Mental support. Nutrition. Elimination of triggers and more. Having worked with a myriad of people that are wired differently, we are passionate about promoting self-reliance, self-awareness, understanding, resilience, and appreciation for the unique gifts that come with autism.

What to do next

If you or a loved one is seeking a diagnosis or assessment, please contact one of our clinical psychologists. If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with autism, our psychologists and counsellors can provide ongoing, personalised support.

To address the myriad of factors that may be aggravating a person on the autism spectrum – diet, environmental toxins, lifestyle habits, and more – please schedule an appointment with one of our naturopaths.

To arrange an appointment, call 2523 7121 or send us a message here.

Articles, blogs, videos and resources: