People with ASD have varying degrees of communication impairment, which may present as:

  • Delayed development of spoken (expressive) language, and problems with understanding (receptive) language;

  • Restricted non-verbal interaction, such as difficulty with eye contact;

  • Difficulty understanding gestures;

  • Echolalia (repeating what is spoken);

  • Difficulty starting or sustaining conversation;

  • Very low frustration tolerance.

Behaviour and Interests

Difficulty using and understanding language may impair a child’s ability to regulate responses to their environment. As such, children with ASD often exhibit unusual behaviour as an attempt to communicate their emotions, or as a means of coping to a particular situation. People with ASD also can develop behavioural problems as a result of heightened sensitivity to sound or other stimuli in their surroundings. Some of these behaviours include:

  • Unusually intense or focused interests - to the point of obsession;

  • Body movements that are stereotyped and repetitive, such as hand flapping;

  • Sticking to routines insistently;

  • Learning difficulties;

  • Seeking out or avoiding certain sensory factors such as specific tastes, smells, or textures.

Social Interaction

One of the hardest things for people with ASD is to manage in an environment with people who process information, and interact differently to them. Many kids with ASD have difficulties engaging in everyday social interactions. They may exhibit traits such as:

  • Making little eye contact;

  • Difficulty listening to, and responding to people in conversation;

  • Difficulty sharing their enjoyment to others;

  • Disinterest in things that are not their preferred topics;

  • Unusual reactions to people who show anger, distress, and affection – some limited insight into how others are feeling.

No two children display exactly the same characteristics of ASD, and the signs that they express can vary in intensity. Children who present with features consistent with ASD benefit from early diagnosis and intervention. Psychological support typically addresses social skill development and emotional regulation. Liaison with schools, speech therapists, occupational therapists also enhances the child’s progress.

Diagnosis of ASD can help the child and the people in their environment to understand their feelings and behaviours. With this, the child’s specific strengths can also be recognised and incorporated into making positive adjustments to this diagnosis.

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