The number of children being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder is increasing.
In June this year, Jeannie and Kevin Adams sent out a long e-mail to their friends and family. It was an emotionally frank message documenting their struggle to understand what was going on with their three-year-old son. Michael has an angelic face and a sweet smile, but never spoke and was being teased at nursery school. He would scream for no apparent reason, headbutt his parents and bang his head against hard surfaces. Lunches with the extended family were a nightmare and even going to the beach was a challenge.
On the positive side, he painted beautifully and carefully packed away his puzzles. Jeannie knew that something was wrong, but didn't know what the problem was. Finally, after having Michael's hearing tested and being told that he had no auditory problems, the Adams family consulted a paediatric specialist, who specializes in paediatric neurology and development. She diagnosed Michael as having mannerisms and behaviour seen in children who display Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), in other words he was autistic. For Jeannie it was almost a relief to finally have a label defining the problem. "Autism is a spectrum disorder", says Jeannie "and its expression ranges from severe to mildly affected". "With PDD-NOS Michael is on the mild side, but if we did nothing to help him, he could, and most certainly would, slide."