Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a range of neuro-developmental disorders characterised by difficulties in socialising and communicating, and having restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour and interest.
Teen blogger Amos Yee is suspected to be suffering from this after undergoing a psychiatric assessment. There are some signs that a parent can pick up on when their child has ASD.
Parents usually sense something amiss when their children do not interact with other children, avoid eye contact or have an unusual way of playing, such as lining up toys in a certain way, said Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre.
ASD patients may have unusual interests such as recalling bus numbers or use words in a peculiar way, such as speaking in full sentences and formally when they are in casual settings.
Dr Lim said ASD patients are easily distressed if changes are made to their routines- some may even have fixated preferences regarding the choice of clothing fabrics.
They may have delayed development in spoken language ability, or lack it completely. In individuals with adequate speech, there may be marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.
Dr Lim urged parents to take their children suspected of having ASD to medical professionals for assessment and early intervention.
He said that those without intellectual impairment can study in mainstream schools and lead normal lives without others knowing of their condition.
He added that overseas studies have shown that the prevalence of ASD in the population can be as high as 1 per cent.
Studies have shown that the autistic population has a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders than the general population.
But autism cannot be cured, unlike psychiatric disorders, which can potentially be cured.