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Autism Spectrum Ribbon

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Affinity Health talks about autism and the benefits of early detection in children as one of the best ways of managing the disorder.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Affinity Health sheds light on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms that are a growing health problem in South Africa.

According to the South African government, “autism is a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life. 

Autism has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies in many regions across the world.

ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. It is characterised by deficits in social interactions and social communication, as well as restricted, repetitive behaviour patterns. 

Despite medical advances, the exact cause of ASD is not known. Current research, however, links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. 

While no cure exists, individuals with autism can lead meaningful, happy, and enriched lives, just like everyone else.

The number of diagnosed cases of autism and related disorders has dramatically increased over the past decade. The most recent studies (CDC, 2020) report that ASD occurs in approximately 1 in 54 births. 

ASD is one of the most common profound developmental disabilities and is almost four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.

Affinity Health’s CEO, Murray Hewlett says that “although there are no specific medical tests for diagnosing autism, there are a few signs that could indicate a child has the disorder. 

It’s important that should parents become concerned about developmental delays in their children, they consult their health care provider.” 

How your child interacts on a social level is a primary indicator of whether they have symptoms of ASD.

What are the signs and symptoms of Autism?

  • If your child doesn’t make eye contact with you and isn’t smiling by ten weeks, or if she’s not engaging with you at all by the time they are 6 months old. 
  • If your child isn’t speaking any words by the time they’re between the ages of 2 and 3 years old.
  • If your child is unempathetic and unable to recognise when another person is distressed.
  • If your child seems to be in her own world, unaware of others around her. 
  • If your child displays intensely repetitive motor movements.
  • If your child has an unfeeling or indifferent response to a hug or pat on the back. The reaction may be as simple as pulling away from the hug or as distressing as self-injury.
  • If your child has frequent tantrums and is easily frustrated.
  • If your child has exceptionally rigid ideas about time, travel, daily routines, feeding, dressing routines, and placement of objects at home and in the classroom.

Researchers have also looked at the role of vaccines required by a child before the age of two, as people feared that getting all those injections so early in life could lead to the development of Autism.

Again, no conclusive evidence has been found to substantiate this. Furthermore, a new study in Denmark involving over half a million children has confirmed that no risk of increased autism has been found among kids who received the MMR (measles) vaccinations.

Read More Here: Is Autism Linked to Child Vaccination?

The good news is that studies have shown that children who have been diagnosed with ASD in infancy will show significant improvement by the time they hit their teens.

“If you are concerned that your child could have ASD, seek advice from an expert right away. There’s no harm having your child assessed by your paediatrician or occupational therapist, who will be able to assist in developing a programme to help minimise your child’s symptoms and maximise their abilities,” concludes Hewlett.

Affinity Health’s Telehealth Helps with Early Detection

Affinity Health’s Primary Healthcare Professionals will assess the severity of your symptoms and refer you for further intervention.

Chat to an Affinity Health primary healthcare professional by calling the Affinity Health telehealth line.

To consult a Primary Healthcare Professional, please call 0861 11 00 33 during the following times:

Mondays to Fridays: 07:00 to 19:00

Saturdays: 07:00 to 14:00

Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, and Instagram.  

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