Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) is a group of complex neurobiological disorders that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. The disorder is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. Symptoms range from mild to severe.
Two milder forms of the disorder are known as Asperger's Syndrome and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified).
How common is ASC?
According to the most recent Australian statistics, 1 in 160 individuals has an ASD diagnosis. This equates to around 125,000 people with ASD in Australia, and 500,000 families directly affected by ASC.
What are the causes of ASC?
No one knows for sure. Though it's understandable to expect that a disorder as common as ASC would have a known cause, in many ways it's still quite mysterious. Recent studies suggest a strong genetic basis for ASC -- up to 20 sets of genes may play a part in its development. Genetics alone, however, can't account for all the cases, and so scientists are also looking into possible environmental origins, as well as other triggers.
How can I tell if a child has autism?
No two children with ASC are alike, but there are some signs that many of them share and that experts agree may be as recognizable as early as the toddler years, or even sooner. Children on the spectrum generally have difficulty relating to others; they may hardly speak, and if they do, they may not communicate in ways that other people can easily understand (they may screech loudly when they're upset, for example, instead of crying). They don't usually sustain eye contact - it's too intense -- and have trouble reading social cues. They're also prone to repetitive behaviours, flapping their hands constantly or uttering the same phrase over and over again. They may also be more sensitive than typically developing children, or dramatically less so, to sights, sounds and touch.
What should I do if I suspect something is wrong with my child?
Don't wait--talk to your doctor about getting child screened for ASC. New research shows that children as young as one may exhibit signs of autism, so recognizing early signs and knowing developmental milestones is important. Early intervention is key.
How do I participate in research?
Navigate your way to 'Our Research', and take a look at the research that we're currently conducting. If one or more of the research projects interests you, please contact the relevant researcher on the email or phone number provided.
How will my participation help others?
The information we get from our participants will help us to better understand ASC. We hope that this will lead researchers to find better ways of assessing and helping future generations of people with ASC. You and your child could be involved in an important scientific advance.
What happens to the results of the research?
The information we collect will be analysed and then written-up for publication in a scientific journal. These articles contain no information that could identify individual participants.
Will I be given information about what your study has discovered?
Yes, by participating in our research you will be sent an 'end-of-year' newsletter, which will contain lots of information about what we have found from our various studies.
If you'd like to contact us, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Telethon Kids' reception on (08) 9489 7777.