Autism Spectrum Disorders

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)?Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders are developmental disabilities characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests/behaviours and sensory sensitivities. The term ASD is an umbrella description covering three different diagnoses that can vary in their range of symptoms and severity. The three ASD diagnoses are autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) otherwise known as atypical autism. Regardless of the specific diagnosis given, all children with ASD have three common areas of difficulty:


Impairments in social interaction such as:

  • Limited use and understanding of non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expression and body language
  • Difficulties forming and sustaining friendships
  • Lack of seeking to share enjoyment, interest and activities with other people
  • Difficulties with social and emotional responsiveness


Impairments in communication such as:

  • Delayed or atypical language development
  • Difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations
  • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language
  • Limited imaginative or pretend play


Restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours such as:

  • Unusual intense or focussed interests
  • Stereotyped and repetitive body movements such as flapping or spinning
  • Repetitive use of objects such as lining up toys
  • Adherence to non-functional routines such as insisting on taking the same route home each day


In addition to these three main areas of difficulty, children with ASD may also have:

  • Unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intensely at moving objects
  • Sensory sensitivities including avoidance of certain sounds, tastes and textures
  • Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties


Studies report 1 in 160 Australians have an ASD with a greater prominence in boys than girls. The effects of an ASD can often be minimised by early diagnosis and together with evidence based interventions, many children with an ASD can show significant improvements.

What if I suspect my child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

There is no single behaviour that indicates ASD. There is no blood test that can detect ASD. ASD is diagnosed through formal assessments, observations, questionnaires and discussions with the child, their family and a team of health and educational professionals. Developmental paediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists with experience in assessing children with ASD are qualified to make a diagnosis however, they often seek guidance and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team. If you suspect your child has an ASD, your local doctor may refer you to a paediatrician and/or a team of professionals including a speech pathologist, psychologist and/or occupational therapist in your area.

For more information see the Australian Government Initiative - Raising Children Network Website.

How can speech pathologists help?

Speech Pathologists work together with parents as well as health, education and medical professionals to specifically support the communication and social skills of children with ASDs. Speech Pathologists particularly focus on building relationships with children with ASD through establishing shared communication moments. Intervention typically targets understanding of language, communication through words, body language and other augmentative and alternative means (e.g. signing, symbols, photos and speech generating devices) and use of communication for social purposes including conversations and play. Speech Pathologists are strong advocates for the key role that communication intervention has in unlocking the potential of children with ASDs.

What approaches do you use at Therapy Matters?

Our speech pathologists use a range of speciality skills, therapy techniques and resources in the assessment and treatment of children with ASDs. Some of the therapy approaches available at Therapy Matters include: Hanen “It Takes Two to Talk” and “More than Words”, Picture Communication Exchange System (PECS), DIR/Floortime, key word signing, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), PROMPT, social stories, speech generating devices, functional communication training, computer programs and computer applications (e.g. iPad). See the Australian Government Initiative - Raising Children Network Website for more details about the effectiveness
of different interventions with children with ASD.

What special funding programs or rebates are available?


Therapy Matters has been part of the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel for the Helping Children with Autism Package since its inception. Families of children under 7 years of age with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who have a Letter of Introduction from the Autism Advisor in their state are eligible for up to $12000 of therapy services (to a maximum of $6000 per year). Read More>>

For more information go to Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website.


All Speech Pathologists at Therapy Matters are registered Medicare providers. There are a number of Medicare schemes which provide for a partial rebate for speech pathology services. All schemes require referral by a GP or Paediatrician. Read More>>

Further information is available through the Department of Health and Ageing website.

Private Health Funds

A number of private health funds provide partial reimbursement for some speech pathology services. Parents will need to enquire with their health fund as to the services and rebates covered. Electronic health claiming is available for most private health funds at our West Burleigh clinic.

Read More>>