If you’ve arrived at this page, you or someone you know may be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or you may have seen warning signs of ASD. While it can be a confronting diagnosis, it can also be helpful to understand the condition better.
On this page, we’d like to answer some of the most common questions about autism and let you know how you can access one-on-one support – at any age – via Mable.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. People can be diagnosed with ASD at any age though it usually begins before age 3 and symptoms may even become noticeable within the first 12 months of life. People with autism may communicate, interact, behave and learn differently to how other people do. It is called a ‘spectrum’ disorder because the abilities of people with ASD can vary widely.
Learn more about ASD and levels of ASD.
What are signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
The signs of autism spectrum disorder vary widely among individuals, and according to gender and age. A child or adult with ASD may experience differences in one or more of the following areas:
- Thinking and learning – A person with autism may experience difficulties around executive function skills (organisation, planning and prioritising, maintaining focus, time management, etc.). They may also struggle with ‘tuning in’ to others’ perspectives and may respond in ways that are considered ‘inappropriate’ in a social context. Additionally, they may experience central coherence difficulties, meaning they may become distracted by minute details of a situation.
- Behaviour – Autism can often present as behavioural, with the individual performing repetitive actions, expressing strong interests in specific topics and having difficulties with sensory processing. They may be fixated on rituals and routines, and may display repetitive vocalising behaviours, such as making repetitive noises or repeating words or sentences they’ve heard. People with autism are often intensely focused on objects, parts of objects, collecting, studying or other pursuits. They are also subject to being over-responsive or under-responsive to sensory stimuli such as temperature, stress and their environment.
- Communication – Autism can present a ‘mismatch’ of communication. Some people with autism can be incredibly articulate while others may be non-verbal or have difficulty expressing themselves. They may also find it difficult to read others’ body language, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues.
- Social interaction – People with autism may find it difficult to recognise social cues and may not know how to respond according to the situation.
Find out more about the signs of ASD.
My child is diagnosed with autism: What should I do?
To confirm a diagnosis of autism, your first port of call should be your GP, who will be able to refer you to a specialist or team of health professionals. Commonly, a multidisciplinary team will be consulted and may include a paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, speech pathologist and/or occupational therapist.
An assessment of function will be carried out which assesses the individual’s abilities as well as their support requirements and determines whether the person has any developmental delays. This will be followed by a medical assessment in which tests will be carried out to discover if a medical cause is behind the individual’s developmental delays. If no cause is found for the individual’s behaviours, a diagnostic assessment will follow, which will involve interviews with a medical practitioner.
An autism diagnosis may bring a sense of relief, especially if it has been suspected. However, receiving an autism diagnosis can be an overwhelming experience for both the person and the family members. It can be helpful to know what to do (and what not to do) after receiving a diagnosis.
What to do
- Talk to someone – a medical professional, a friend, another parent of a child with autism
- Tap into carer and community support
- Talk to your paediatrician to plan next steps
What not to do
- Don’t isolate yourself
- Don’t feel guilty, self-conscious and don’t panic – remind yourself that there’s nothing you could have done to prevent an autism diagnosis – but there’s a lot you can do to help now.
There is plenty of support out there for children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism. Learn more about what you can do if you have a confirmed autism diagnosis.
My child has autism, are they eligible for NDIS funding?
The NDIS provides funding for tens of thousands of Australians, including children aged from 7 years. Eligibility is based on the individual’s reduced capacity in five main spheres:
- Social interaction
Autism: Accessing early intervention support via the NDIS
Early intervention refers to commencing therapeutic interventions as early as possible. For children aged younger than 7 (and therefore not yet eligible for NDIS funding), it could start as young as 12 months of age. An ASD diagnosis is not required for specialised early intervention so parents can seek this kind of support as soon as they begin noticing any developmental challenges.
The child will be thoroughly assessed before a tailored program is devised for them. It will take into account their development delays and their interests, needs and strengths.
An early intervention program will focus on physical, behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social development. Depending on the child’s individual support requirements, it might include speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational and psychological therapy. In fact, the child may need different combinations of therapy at different stages as they grow and learn.
Learn more about accessing early intervention support through the NDIS.
Early schooling: Autism support in your child’s journey
School can be a challenging place for any child, and for a child with autism, it can be loaded with additional layers of sensory, learning and social challenges. If the child is diagnosed with ASD, it’s important to communicate this to the school so that teachers and other members of staff can be made aware.
Accessing private support for your child can be key to their successful development. Through Mable, you could connect with an independent support worker whose role it is to help the child with executive functioning such as effective time management, creating an organised space for homework, preparing school lunches and journeying to and from school. A support worker can assist with learning how to socialise by taking them out and introducing them to different activities and groups.
Find out more about how you can support your child during their early schooling years.
Post-school education: Autism support for young adults
Heading into high school and then into university is an exciting yet overwhelming time for all young adults. Luckily, with the right support, they can not only navigate post-school education easily, but also enjoy it.
Many people with ASD pursue higher education, earning degrees or diplomas and practising the skills they will need for adult life. When it comes to formal tertiary education, your options are much the same as neurotypical students, only you may be eligible to access additional support, which will help you gain your qualifications.
Most campuses have disability support staff to help you outline supports or adjustments you may need. Student Counselling Service on the campus can be particularly helpful.
Once you have decided what kind of post-school study you want to undertake, you can start to plan for this change. Learn more about how to plan for this transition.
Employment: Autism support for job readiness
Adults with autism who are looking to enter the workforce or who are working and are looking to change jobs may need support around job readiness. You may need help with resume preparation, job seeking, job applications and interview roleplay.
As an NDIS participant, you may be able to receive funding as part of your Capacity Building budget. Capacity building refers to supports that help to learn new skills or build independence and often relates to long-term goals such as education, employment or moving out of home.
Searching for an independent support worker on the Mable platform could help you connect with a person who has expertise in this area and who has experience in working with people diagnosed with ASD.
Find out more about employment opportunities and support, and how you can plan for this transition.
We hope that armed with all this information about autism, whether you’re a parent of a child with autism, or an adult with autism, you will find it easy to seek support and live a life that you find fulfilling and joyful.
Learn more about how an Independent Support Worker on Mable can support someone living with Austism Spectrum Disorder. Sign up on Mable to get the right support for you, a family member or friend today.