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Parents Corner

Below is a list to common questions we receive and the answers we can provide. If you would like to provide resources for us to share, please call or email us at: info@werockthespectrummoorabbin.com.au

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Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects the brain’s growth and development. It is a lifelong condition, with symptoms that appear in early childhood.

Autistic individuals can experience challenges with communication and interacting with others, repetitive and different behaviours, strong interests, unusual responses to sensory input and a difference in the affect the way they interact with others and how they experience the world around them.

No two people with Autism are the same

Secondary Conditions Associated with Autism

Some people on the autism spectrum may also experience speech and language difficulties, sleep problems, epilepsy, anxiety and depression, attention problems, intellectual disability, difficulties with fine and gross motor skills and sensory processing.

Understanding the Autism Spectrum

Autism can cause individuals challenges in understanding how to relate to other people and to their environment.

There is no physical marker for autism, so individuals on the autism spectrum look no different to anyone else. Parents sometimes report that others might think that their children are badly behaved and that they lack parenting skills, based on different behaviours that can be very unhelpful for a family.

Adults on the autism spectrum may struggle with social situations and ‘small talk’, thus appearing rude or saying things that others would not say. As social interaction is fluid and constantly changing, people on the autism spectrum may also have challenges in keeping up with the verbal and non-verbal messages that are being communicated.

What are the Causes?

There is no known cause of autism. Much research is being done to try to find out more. At this point it is believed to result from changes to the development and growth of the brain, which may be caused by a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic.

There is an increased chance of having another child on the autism spectrum if there already is a child in the family who has a diagnosis, but no specific genes have yet been proven to cause autism.

Autism is not caused by parenting or social circumstances.

Autism is not caused by vaccination or other medical treatments.

Autism Spectrum Facts

  • Autism affects around 1 in every 100-110 Australians.
  • Autism is diagnosed in around four times as many males as females.
  • Autism is a lifelong condition and there is no cure.
  • Unemployment rates for individuals on the autism spectrum are around 65% compared with only about 6% for the whole population.
  • Individuals on the autism spectrum are over-represented in the homeless population and in the justice system.
  • Early Intervention, inclusive practices and continued meaningful support can have tremendous results in helping those affected to live to their full potential.

Many thanks for information supplied by AMAZE

Down Syndrome occurs when a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 is present in a person. Having this additional genetic material causes developmental characteristics that have become knowingly associated with having Down Syndrome. The physical traits most commonly associated are low muscle tone, a small stature, eyes that slant upward, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. These traits are most common, but a person with Down Syndrome may possess all or none of these traits in a variety of degrees.

1 in every 1,100 babies born in Australia will have Down Syndrome. There are three types of Down Syndrome: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction), translocation and mosaicism. Each type of Down Syndrome has its own unique characteristics and causes leaving parents with a variety of developmental challenges they will face with their child. Down Syndrome can often be diagnosed early, either prenatally or shortly after birth giving parents an early start on helping their child face their challenges.

Generally children who have Down Syndrome suffer from cognitive delays that offer a range of severities. Those who have mild delays are sometimes simply thought of as being a “little slow” and find themselves more easily integrated into society as they reach adulthood. Those who suffer from much more severe delays require more assistance and patience during their formative years.

Regardless of the severity of the Down Syndrome of a child, the marvelous advances in medicine along with the ability for children with Down Syndrome to enjoy their lives, these children are finding themselves more integrated in society than ever before. Many programs are available to families who have children with Down Syndrome including the use and benefits of the equipment and staff at We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym.

One note of interest is the amazing change in the life expectancy of a person with Down Syndrome. In 1910 the life expectancy was only age nine with an increase to twenty with the discovery of antibiotics. Today with many treatment options and surgeries to help correct heart issues many adults with Down Syndrome can live full and happy lives that reach as far as age sixty, a huge improvement over the short expectancy of only a century ago.

A child is considered to have an Intellectual Disability when their ability to perform intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) or their adaptive behavior (which is a range of social and practical skills) is significantly limited. This form of disability shows itself well before the age of 18 and covers a wide variety of factors that lead to the limited ability to process information by a child.

Children are diagnosed as having an Intellectual Disability when the following is present

  • An IQ of 75 or less
  • Limitations in adaptive behavior- this covers conceptual skills, social skills and practical skills
  • These results are present as a child, which is defined as age 18 or less

Intellectual Disabilities can be caused by a varying number of factors. Children can be born with Intellectual Disabilities, but environmental and social factors can also contribute to a child developing an Intellectual Disability. With a variety of risk factors that can contribute to a child having an Intellectual Disability is has been difficult for experts to find one main cause for these forms of disability.

Because this form of disability encompasses the cognitive part of the brain and the thought process, children who have been diagnosed with Intellectual Disabilities most often benefit from Occupational Therapy that is designed to challenge this part of their brain and have them thinking. Playing with puzzles, building blocks and even learning how to clean up and put away toys help these children with everyday activities in order to prepare them for the simple problem solving skills needed in their lives.

Children with Intellectual Disabilities can also benefit greatly from open play and learning how to master a variety of activities such as climbing, swinging, jumping, crawling and even falling. To address a social deficiency, children are able to gain an advantage by learning how to take turns and what is acceptable behavior. All of the necessary elements to assist children in problem solving and helping them to spark the cognitive part of their brain are present at We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym.

Even though children with Intellectual Disabilities are likely to suffer from them during their entire lifetime, it has been found these children can learn and master many of the basic functions needed to be able to comfortably function in social settings.

A Learning Disability is a neurological disorder that often shows itself in a child who has difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and organizing information. These disabilities cannot be cured or fixed, they are something the child has to learn to live with and find ways to overcome. In many cases children with Learning Disabilities are as smart or smarter than their peers and can show signs of frustration when a lack of understanding or results is present in the classroom.

With nearly 42% of school age children receiving some form of assistance for a diagnosed Learning Disability this category is one of the most common seen at school or play. Of the 42%, approximately two-thirds are male, making it more prevalent in boys than in girls. Attention issues are much different from Learning Disabilities and children with Learning Disabilities often do not draw attention to themselves and it can take a few years to actually diagnose and begin a path to treatment and improvement for the child with a Learning Disability.

Learning Disabilities show up in a variety of ways. A Language-Based Learning Disability (LBLD) can affect a variety of communication and academic skills. This includes listening, speaking, reading, writing and performing math calculations. Children with this form of a Learning Disability have been known to be unable to perform the alphabet in the correct order and have difficulty sounding out a spelling work. Children suffering from LBLD may be able to read an entire story without being able to explain the subject matter of the story at all. A variety of therapies and counseling can assist children who suffer from LBLD, but often it’s not discovered until the child is of school age.

Children with LBLD often show the following:

  • Learning is difficult because the information becomes fuzzy or scrambled
  • A serious deficiency in reading comprehension, spelling, written expression, math computation, problem solving, organizational skills, time management or social skills
  • An inconsistency to have problems in these areas, but some problem is always present
  • Often act out from frustration to themselves and others

Another form of a Learning Disability is a Nonverbal Learning Disability (NVLD). Children with NVLD often miss nonverbal cues and have difficulty understanding nuances and sarcasm. These children are typically highly intelligent and understand reading and writing but can read an entire story while missing important parts of the story. Unfortunately for children with NVLD, they are often classified as “different” by their peers because they don’t comprehend the same nonverbal cues the rest of society so easily processes. Diagnosing NVLD can be difficult because it shows up in ways that simply seem to

be socially inappropriate, however when repeated actions are present and children seem to have problems keeping friends, parents and teachers should be aware to consider NVLD.

Children with NVLD often show the following signs:

  • Talking, but not connecting
  • Asking about things, but not exploring
  • Strong reading and spelling, but poor comprehension
  • Memorizing math answers, but showing no understanding of the concepts behind them
  • Memorizing information, but not knowing how to share it

In either form of Learning Disability, early detection and diagnosis is vital in order to properly manage the disability and provide the assistance and accommodations needed for these children in order for them to thrive and grow intellectually and socially. Children with Learning Disabilities have shown over the years they can flourish and become successful, with the support offered through Special Education services these children can be shown how to work and overcome their disability to be successful.

Speech Impairment is caused by difficulty of the brain being able to communicate with the muscles of the mouth in order to create proper speech. This can show up in a wide variety of forms, mostly showing up as a speech impairment that causes the child to be unable to properly form the words with their mouth and jaw. This Impairment does not signify a disability in learning, but a struggle with the regurgitation of information through speech.

Speech Impairments are generally very easy for parents and teachers to discover in students as it shows up daily in their speech, making them difficult to understand or showing an inability to communicate appropriately. For children with Speech Impairments a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is normally seen on a regular basis at the school by the child in order to work to improve their speech over the course of time. Even though the initial discovery of the Speech Impairment can be fairly easy to see, learning exactly what is needed in order to assist the child in correcting their speech becomes the challenge for an SLP to help the child work through.

A Language Impairment is present for children who display a serious difficulty not only understanding what is said to them, but also in expressing themselves. Children who suffer from Language Impairments often end up confused or frustrated by what is said, because they either don’t understand what was said or aren’t sure what a correct response would be. The main areas of Language Impairment show up as articulation, fluency, voice and language. These are defined below for easier reference, but difficulty in one or all of these areas makes it very difficult for someone with a Language Impairment to feel understood.

Some common characteristics of Language Impairments include:

  • Improper use of words and their meanings
  • Inability to express ideas
  • Inappropriate grammatical patterns
  • Reduced Vocabulary
  • Inability to follow directions

Continued efforts with children who suffer from Language Impairments by use of additional learning and problem solving activities assists these children who can eventually overcome their impairment. In fact, both children who suffer from Speech Impairments and Language Impairments can eventually overcome their impairments and grow to have fluid speech and a full understanding of language.

Areas of Speech and Language:

  • Expressive Language – expressing ideas verbally using appropriate vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure
  • Receptive Language – the comprehension of language; understanding grammar, vocabulary, directions and questions
  • Articulation – how well the child is able to produce sounds in words and sentences
  • Fluency – shows an age appropriate flow of speech
  • Voice – shows an age appropriate pitch, volume or a nasality of the speech

When a young child presents with a-typical development or challenging behaviours it can be difficult to navigate the opinions of family and friends and placate your own fears as a parent.

It is important to realise that reaching out for professional help and advice is crucial for your child and family to obtain appropriate diagnoses and support.

Who can you talk to?

  • Your Maternal Health Nurse
  • Your child’s GP or pediatrician
  • Talk to your child’s childcare educator or teacher
  • Talk to your child’s school welfare or wellness officer

Starting with your child’s pediatrician will help discover if there is a medically based disorder present. If required, a pediatrician will also be able to direct you to the appropriate specialist and services and oversee your child’s care.

Direction and care from the appropriate professional services can provide your child with all the necessary assistance and accommodations to help them grow, develop and reach their full potential to live a happy life.