If a person suspects that he or she or a loved one has autism, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.



Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by withdrawal from other people, repetitive behavior and fear of change in the environment. The disorder impedes the brain's ability to receive and process information. It is a disorder that impairs neurological development, and usually begins in infancy or early childhood. The condition is chronic and is characterized by poor social interaction and communication, as well as by limited interests or repetitive behavior. A complete solution for autism has not yet been found; therefore, treatment involves predominantly symptom management.

Asperger syndrome is the closest to autism in terms of symptoms and possible causes, but with the difference that asperger sufferers' language ability develops normally.



The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), which is widely accepted as the most authoritative source worldwide. Please note Please note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.

A total of 6 or more symptoms of (A), (B) and C), with at least (2 of (A), and 1 each of (B) and (C):

  1. A clear impediment to social interaction, as indicated by at least 2 of the following:
    1. Struggling to make certain gestures, e.g. face-to-face, or to show facial expressions and body language in communication with another person.
    2. Inability to build relationships appropriate to the age of the child around his or her peers.
    3. Spontaneous enjoyment in a task is lacking, as is the ability to share successfully completed interests or tasks with others.
    4. Lack of ability to point things out to parents or to fetch something when asked.
    5. Lack of emotional part, e.g. playing with other children.
  2. A clear barrier to communication, as indicated by at least 1 of the following:
    1. Slow or no development in speech and language.
    2. A clear impediment to the ability to start or maintain a conversation with children whose speech has indeed developed.
    3. Constant repetition of the same words.
    4. Lack of spontaneous play, as measured against other children of the same age.
  3. Restricted, repetitive behavior, interests or activities, as shown in at least 2 of the following:
    1. Exceptional interest in one or more activities, which are abnormal in intensity and focus.
    2. Strict adherence to routines or rituals that have no apparent function.
    3. Repetitive physical mannerisms, e.g. an involuntary waving of the hands or fingers, or complex movements of the body.
    4. Continued interest in only certain parts of objects.



  1. Who should diagnose my child?
    Any psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in working with behavioral disorders in children.
  2. Will my child need to take medication?
    Not necessarily. However, some medications do help with related symptoms, such as depression.
  3. What will my child's treatment still entail?
    It is ideal that the treatment and management of a child diagnosed with autism-related disorder will be long-term. It also involves a multi-team approach. Depending on the degree (severity) of the diagnosis, a psychiatrist, psychologist, occupational therapist and even dietitian play an important role.
  4. What role do parents play in treating an autistic child?
    Parents usually become part of the treatment and management because autistic children usually need permanent help with managing their environments.




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    What are a parent's options with therapy for children? What happens in therapy, and how can it benefit the child and parents? With the increasing number of children experiencing anxiety and depression, this episode is a MUST.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?