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Diagnosing autism

Diagnosis involves a multi-disciplinary team that often include a paediatrician, a psychologist, a speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist. A neurological examination, such as a CAT scan (Computer-Assisted Axial Tomography), and an EEG (electroencephalogram) may also be performed.

While it may take a while for parents to accept a diagnosis of autism, it can be accompanied by feelings of relief from having a medical explanation for the child’s unusual behaviour. Professor Ho Lai Yun, Senior Consultant at the Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, adds: “The good news is that parents can now start to help their child get proper treatment and therapy, and make the most of his or her potential.”

Caring for an autistic child

There is no known cure for autism, and the child will have to live with the condition for a lifetime.

However, if the child is fortunate enough to be diagnosed and treated before the age of three, parents and doctors can intervene early, which may then lead to a marked improvement in the child’s condition.

There are many treatment options available. These include:

  • Medication: There are no medications that treat autism itself. Instead, specific drugs, such as anti-depressants, can be used to treat certain symptoms associated with autism, such as anxiety, hyperactivity and seizures.
  • Therapy: Physical therapy can help autistic children improve their motor skills, while occupational therapy can help them learn or improve on basic life skills (such as tying shoelaces and brushing teeth). Sometimes, other types of therapy may be necessary. For instance, speech therapy may help an autistic child who finds it difficult to pronounce words, or speaks in a robotic or song-like voice.

Raising an autistic child is not easy. But as parents, you can be proactive and take steps to better understand the condition and manage the behavioural symptoms.

Need a helping hand?

Stress levels can run high in families with an autistic child. If you need help dealing with the challenges of raising an autistic child, get the support you deserve.

Pick up coping strategies to better manage your autistic child's behaviour

Learn to better manage your autistic child’s difficult behaviour by attending the Signposts for Building Better Behaviour pilot programme at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group. This programme helps parents develop practical strategies to cope with, or prevent, such behaviour.

Join an autism support group

In Singapore, there are communities – both physical and online – that you can turn to for information, resources and parenting guidance. Try Facebook groups like “Singapore Autism – Parents Need Support Too!” or the Autism Siblings Support Singapore.

See previous page for symptoms of autism​.

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