One of the first and most important choices parents and caregivers make after a child’s diagnosis of autism is which therapy will be most suitable for their son or daughter.
By Jackie Maya, OTARC 2014 Honours student
Many mothers with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than mothers with typically developing children and those rearing children with other disabilities. But we don’t know which factors contribute to or protect against these negative outcomes. Being from a migrant family, I wondered whether mothers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds would experience more or less stress, anxiety and depression in reaction to having a child with ASD than Australian mothers. Based on other research, we also thought that different coping skills may influence how mothers react. These are the questions I explored for my Honours project with Dr Kristelle Hudry and Dr Josephine Barbaro at OTARC. We were particularly interested in the reactions and coping skills of mothers whose child had recently been diagnosed with ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; which now includes former diagnostic labels such as Autistic Disorder and Asperger syndrome) is a life-long neuro-developmental disorder. It first shows itself early in life, emerging across toddlerhood and into the preschool years.
Dr Josephine Barbaro is joined by Professor Catherine Lord and Dr Andy Shih during the week of Autism activities, co-ordinated by Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, held at La Trobe University December 2014. The focus of episode 6 is early identification and diagnosis of ASD as well as global knowledge transfer.
By Kristelle Hudry, La Trobe University
Since the condition was first recognised in the 1940s, parents have been and felt blamed for their children’s autism. Today, most people no longer believe this, but a lingering doubt continues to niggle many parents.
Studies at OTARC and elsewhere have shown that infants and toddlers show early signs of ASD, which can be observed from the first year of life. These are first characterized by a lack of attention to social stimuli, and usually progress into clearer ASD symptoms throughout toddlerhood and the pre-school years (Clifford & Dissanayake, 2008). Similarly, studies investigating the early development of restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) in children with an ASD have highlighted that certain RRBs are present in toddlerhood, with others becoming more evident over time (Leekam et al., 2011). These early symptoms are now used for the early identification of ASD in infants and toddlers.
By Dr Josephine Barbaro, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at OTARC and ASD Specialist in Australia’s first Early Assessment Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Since beginning research on the early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders back in 2005 as part of my PhD program, the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS), I was often asked “What’s the point of identifying children at 2 years of age or younger if there are very few or no services for them?” You see, back in 2005, there wasn’t the Helping Children with Autism Package for families of children on the spectrum (aged 0 – 7), or intervention programs like the Early Start Denver Model – the first intervention model with strong empirical evidence for its effectiveness in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with ASDs. So, at this time, many families had to wait on long waiting lists for early intervention services, as long as 18 months in some cases, to receive a few hours a week of services! It was therefore difficult to convince some people, both in the public and private sectors, of the importance of early detection and subsequent intervention.
By Marita Beard (Heidi’s mum)
The Early Days
I first heard the label autism applied to my youngest daughter when she was 18-months old. We had moved house and it was our first visit to the maternal and child health nurse in our new suburb. She tried to get Heidi to mimic pouring a cup of tea. Heidi sat in the corner, with her back to us and banged the teapot against the wall. After meeting us for all of five minutes she asked, “Have you considered autism?”
When a newborn joins a family we become beguiled by the perfection of this wondrous new being. Any hint of difference is easily overlooked during the early years.