Parents of children displaying communication problems, delayed speech, antisocial or odd behaviours are being urged to get them tested early for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Patron of the Autism Support Association, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, said that while parents are often told that their child will grow out of certain behaviours, it is important that they get the child properly assessed.
She noted that children can be diagnosed from as early as two years old and can receive appropriate intervention to assist their development.
“The earlier we identify that a child has special needs, the better it is for that child’s outcome,” she pointed out while addressing a recent JIS Think Tank.
ASD is a complex developmental disability characterised by delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills; and sensory sensitivities.
Signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism affects individuals differently and to varying degrees, and diagnosis is based on analysis of all behaviours and their severity.
While there is no known single cause of autism, Professor Samms-Vaughan said older parents seem to present a higher risk of having a child with autism.
“This means that mothers over 35 and fathers over 35 have a significantly higher risk of having a child with autism,” she said. There is also an increased risk of autism among children born prematurely.
Professor Samms-Vaughan, who is also Professor of Child Health, Child Development and Behaviour at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said studies have also shown that once parents have one child with autism the likelihood of having another child with the condition is 20 per cent.
Professor Samms-Vaughan said that there is assistance for parents of children with autism through the Jamaica Autism Support Association, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, and the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), among others.
Article by: Tomeica Gunn
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm