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Parents encouraged to look out for early signs of autism in children

Published:Tuesday | April 2, 2019 | 10:13 AM
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Danae Hyman, Online Reporter

Today is being commemorated as World Autism Awareness Day and with that, the Jamaica Autism Support Association is calling for parents to look out for signs of autism in their children and to seek early intervention.

In Jamaica, some 678 babies are born with the disorder.

Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be described as a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and non-verbal communication. 

Indicators of autism usually appear by age two or three although some delayed development can be detected by as early as 18 months.

“Early intervention is key, the sooner a child is diagnosed the sooner they can get help and the sooner the parents can also be directed to where they can get help. So as soon as you see a sign contact your family physician,” Kathy Chang, co-founder of Jamaica Autism Support Association said.

The association was formed by parents and professionals in 2006 to offer support to parents with children who have autism and to advance autism awareness in Jamaica.

Since then, Chang said more Jamaicans are now knowledgeable of the disorder however she said that there is still room for improvement.

“More persons are aware of autism now. When you talk to people they know of somebody who may have autism. The awareness is getting there but there needs to be more and this can be achieved through more public education,” Chang said.  

She added that doctors, paediatric associations and parents can all help in getting the wider Jamaica more aware of the disorder so as to boost understanding and acceptance of autistic individuals.

Here are five things you need to know about ASD:

* It has been revealed that the causes of autism are linked to genetic and environmental factors. In addition, parents who are 35 years and older are at greater risk of having an autistic child.

*1 in every 68 children is affected by autism.

* Boys are almost five times more likely to have an ASD than girls. In Jamaica, of the 678 confirmed cases of autistic newborns, 545 are boys and 133 are girls.

* There is no cure for autism, but it can be treated and managed through various therapies and behavioural interventions. Doctors may also prescribe medications for treatment of specific autism-related symptoms, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

* Autism cannot be detected through a blood test or scan. Diagnosis relies on behavioural observation and screening.

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