A full evaluation should be done by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, which may include a paediatrician specialising in behavioural and developmental paediatrics, a child psychiatrist or psychologist, and a speech or occupational therapist. Doctors may also call for a hearing test to be performed by an audiologist to ensure that hearing loss is not the primary underlying reason for the lack of social communication and interaction.
There are several assessment tools that are available for diagnostic purposes, including the most commonly used Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R). These are conducted by psychologists who are trained to use them. Measures of the child’s speech and language skills and intellectual ability also help professionals plan intervention.
Having a formal diagnosis is useful because it helps people with autism and their families or school understand their difficulties and what can be done about them. It also allows people to access services and support.
Early intervention can make a big difference to many children with ASD by improving their skills and quality of life and helping them to be more independent. There are many treatment options for ASD which help improve outcomes for children.
Depending on the child’s presenting difficulties, different therapists (e.g. speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist) may support the development of the child’s skills in specific areas of need such as communication, social interaction, activities of daily living, and play skills. Some children may need more intensive intervention. In Singapore, these may be in the form of early intervention programmes provided by government-funded organisations or private centres.
There are no medications that treat the condition itself. However, some medications may be useful for minimising self-injurious or aggressive behaviours, associated anxiety or hyperactivity, or sleep difficulties in children with ASD.
There are many services that claim to provide complementary alternative treatments that can help children with ASD. However, these have not been proven in clinical trials and there is insufficient high quality evidence to support their use.