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What need to know about autism

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a common and complex developmental problem that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges.

The word ‘autism’ is not new to the world. In fact, it was first introduced in 1908, by a Swiss psychiatrist named Eugen Bleuler. However, only in the 1940s and 50s did the word autism be used to refer to children with specific behaviours. From then onwards, the understanding of autism has come better and new approaches were introduced for treating children with autism. 

What is autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a broad range developmental disability caused by a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. For children with autism, they may find it difficult to understand the world around them. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that one in 160 children worldwide were diagnosed with ASD. And for parents, it is important to note that there is no one type of autism but many, as it is a wide spectrum disorder. This also means, no two people with autism can have exactly the same symptoms.What causes autism?

The exact causes of autism are still unclear. However, research suggests that two factors that are most likely to contribute to autism are environmental and genetic factors. There are also additional aspects that can increase the risk of getting autism, including:

What are the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Some children show signs of ASD in their first months, and for some, their signs become more prominent between age 2 or 3.Here are some common signs shown by children who have ASD:

  1. Speech and language

Children with ASD may be delayed in using language to communicate. They may also have differences in  interpreting and understanding social cues (such as queuing up to get food). Besides that, some children may not respond or take longer to respond to verbal communication by other people.

Children with ASD may echo words they hear (this is known as echolalia)  – they may repeat patterns of words. Sometimes, children may use echolalia without directing it towards a person. However, most of echolalia has a purpose and it’s our job to decipher what it means! 

They may also display a reduced tendency to share their interests with others, or the sharing is unequal (for example, the person may talk excessively about their own interests without referencing to see if the other person is interested).

  1. Interaction and communication

Often, children with ASD will find it difficult to make and maintain eye contact. Sometimes, autistic children may have trouble understanding simple gestures such as pointing to an object. In different cases, you can find some children who are unable to express themselves clearly through facial expressions, and with an indifferent tone of voice (flat tone). 

  1. Behaviour

Some autistic children often engage in repetitive body movements such as running back and forth or they might engage in repetitive motions with objects, for example, spinning the wheel on a car. An example of repetitive behaviour would be when a child with autism lines up his or her toys, but instead of playing with them, they would clap or flap their hands.

If you think your child might have ASD, or you think there could be a problem with the way your child communicates and behaves, please refer to your doctor, do not wait.It is very important to recognise the early signs of ASD and seek early intervention services to help your child. Research also suggests that early intervention services can greatly improve the development of children with autism.If you are looking for a place that offers a comprehensive early intervention program, just let us know. Our EIP programme is tailored to suit each child’s individual needs and your child will get to experience their best learning journey with Headstart Academy. So, come and join us today!


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Maureen S. Durkin, Matthew J. Maenner, Craig J. Newschaffer & all. (2008).  Advanced Parental Age and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Journal of Epidemiology, 168 (11), 1268–1276. Retrieved, A.E. (n.d). What Causes Autism and Why Are More and More Kids Being Diagnosed With It? Retrieved July 7, from

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