1.6 in 1,000 children in Malaysia has autism: Can autism be cured though?


By Rachel Au

1.6 in 1,000 children in Malaysia has autism: Can autism be cured though?

Before I answer that question, it’s essential first to know what exactly is autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) falls under the Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) cluster, which is a chronic and lifespan disorder. Generally, a complete recovery may not occur, and as such, there is no cure for ASD too.

How to diagnose an individual with ASD

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)1, the standardised criteria include:

  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, such as difficulty with social communication initiation and normal back-and-forth conversations
  • Developing, maintaining, and understanding social relationships and non-verbal communications
  • The individual has restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours such as repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech, insistence on sameness and inflexible adherence to routines, fixated interests, or strong attachment to unusual objects
  • Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory inputs such as temperature, noise, lights, or movements

These conditions vary by each individual and may exist in a spectrum.


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How to help someone with autism

So far, there are no treatments that have shown to be able to cure ASD effectively. However, several interventions have been developed and studied for use with young children. These interventions are designed to help reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills. They’re also able to maximise the potential of the individuals, enabling them to participate in the surrounding community.

One of the most used psychological interventions is behaviour intervention strategies, which helps an individual with ASD in the following areas of their everyday life:

  • Social communication skills—especially at young ages when the child would naturally be gaining these skills
  • Reduce the restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests

The last one, in particular, is a specific technique called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It has been widely used among healthcare professionals and schools because it encourages positive behaviours, and discourages negative ones. In this way, it can improve a wide variety of skills.

Some children may also need speech and occupational therapy to assist with their attention, vocalisation, and socialisation. At the end of the day, individuals with ASD require individualised treatment plans. There is no one-treatment-for-all. It depends on the person’s age, strengths, challenges and differences.

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