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There are many misconceptions about autism that make diagnosing and treating the disorder more difficult.

Autism SA's Thando Makapela explains that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts on the growth and development of the brain.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.

Autism primarily affects social interaction and communication, advises Makapela.

It is known as a spectrum disorder, because it manifests itself in many different ways and to varying degrees.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Behavioural: inappropriate social interaction, poor eye contact, compulsive behaviour, impulsivity, repetitive movements, self-harm, or persistent repetition of words or actions
  • Developmental: learning disability or speech delay in children
  • Cognitive: intense interest in a limited number of things or difficulty paying attention
  • Psychological: unaware of others' emotions or depression

Makapela says that most children with autism do not cope well in large crowds, with noise or commotion.

Autism is a lifelong disorder, but it can be managed.

Thando Makapela, Regional Development Officer at Autism SA

Unfortunately, Makapela says only one in 10 parents of autistic children are well-informed and understand the disorder.

Read: Early diagnosis means early intervention, says autism therapist

Makapela emphasises that it is important for parents to educate themselves and take their children to a pediatrician for developmental assessments, if they recognise symptoms of autism.

She shared her personal experience with raising her autistic son and callers also phoned in with their stories.

Visit the Autism SA website to learn more.

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