Stories

Does My Child have Autism?

As autism awareness becomes more prevalent, parents now have access to a wealth of information regarding the condition, along with the early warning signs that they can look out for when it comes to their own child. All children develop at different rates, parents should not automatically become concerned if their child does not hit certain milestones right away. Every child develops at their own pace, after all. If, however, you find your child consistently missing milestones by more than a few weeks, then parents are encouraged to seek advice from their pediatrician and or a clinical psychologist, who can guide you towards the next steps for a professional assessment and potential diagnosis. Catching the early signs of autism can make a drastic difference to your child’s development; by equipping your child with the best tools and support to help them thrive, as well as improving prognosis.

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD) is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder that develops during early childhood. The condition can typically be characterised through displayed behaviours such as struggles in social interactions, obsessive/repetitive behaviours, and poor emotional regulation.

ASD is an incredibly vast spectrum, and no one person with ASD is the same and can manifest into varying degrees depending on the severity of the child’s symptoms. An individual with autism can be described as ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning. Those who are higher functioning can generally manage their behaviour but can struggle in areas such as social interaction and sensory processing issues.

Why is early intervention so critical?

The early years of a child’s life are extremely important in setting the foundation for future development. The human brain grows rapidly between the ages of 0-5 and is the period where research shows early intervention to be the most effective. This is due to the brain’s remarkable ability to adapt, which is why early intensive treatment may help rewire and even improve some symptoms. This does not mean that improvement is not possible should intervention be introduced later in childhood, nor does it guarantee success.

How to detect early signs?

No one knows your child more than you do. As a parent, you are in the best position to observe your child, and by knowing the signs to look out for, you can catch them early. If your child is in daycare, you can set a meeting with teachers to check in on their development or discuss any concerns you have at home to see if the same behaviours are happening in environments outside the home. Again, it is important not to compare your child to other kids since they all develop and thrive at different paces, but any learning difficulties or red flags should be brought up as soon as possible.

What are the early signs parents should look out for?

Diagnosing autism before 18 is possible but professionals prefer to assess children after this age as they can ascertain a more accurate prognosis. It can also be trickier to diagnose girls as they are four times less likely than boys to go undiagnosed, however, these numbers are improving as we learn more about the presentation of autism in girls.

Here are some of the early signs that can suggest autism in infants and toddlers:

6 months:

Does not smile or express other joyful emotions

Does not make eye contact (for example during feeding or playtime)

Does not respond to their name or familiar voices

Does not imitate facial expressions such as smiling

12 months:

Does not babble or 'baby talk'

Does not show gestures such as pointing, reaching out, or waving

Rarely shows interest in caregivers

16 - 14 months:

Does not use spoken words

Does not use two-word phrases that aren't repetitive

Displays repetitive movement or behaviours

It is important to remember that a child with autism can thrive with the right help and support, and it's a matter of helping them navigate the world through their amazing eyes. Today there is a range of support services available, that when used efficiently, can allow your child to flourish. As a special needs school in Singapore, IIS provides a safe and nurturing environment for our kids, where we embrace differences while treating all our students with equal respect.

Our team of dedicated staff is here to help your child reach their potential. Find out more about our dedicated support services here.

What is Dyspraxia (or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder)?

Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe is certainly a popular hero on film, but he’s also become a hero to many children with learning disabilities. After speaking out about his difficulty with a simple task such as tying his shoelaces, he went onto share he has a mild form of dyspraxia (or developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). Those who have this condition tend to find it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement.

Children with dyspraxia may experience difficulty in functioning everyday life skills such as handwriting, typing, struggling to throw and/or catch a ball or cutting with scissors. It may also affect their ability to speak clearly. In adulthood, these difficulties may continue as they learn new skills at home, in education and work (such as driving a car and DIY tasks).

Many people with dyspraxia may also struggle with short-term memory, perception, processing and speech. For example, a person may mix up the steps when completing a task they’ve done before or may not remember what to do first. There are notable signs or symptoms that are commonly associated with dyspraxia:

Poor handwriting and consistently struggling to write

Trouble with visual-spatial tasks

Noticeably stressed or struggling with gross motor skills (e.g. hopping, jumping, skipping)

Appearing disorganised and often forgetful

Sensory processing issues

Difficulty in following instructions

Avoiding physical exercise and games

Slow development of functional skills with dressing, grooming or hygiene

Children may not be diagnosed until they reach primary school age (6-7 years onwards) because there is no simple test for dyspraxia and symptoms can be missed or overlooked as they may overlap with other possible conditions. As children are still developing their muscular strength, this can also affect their motor skills and capabilities. This is where OT can be very effective as it allows therapists to address sensory processing issues by applying appropriate prompts to encourage children to attempt tasks. One of the main approaches applied in OT is ‘self-regulation therapy’, which is conducted by gradually exposing kids to common sensory stimulation in a controlled, structured, and repetitive way, allowing the brain to adapt over time. The gradual approach of this technique helps to ensure that the body is receiving and interpreting the correct messages from the muscles, while training the nervous system to respond to common sensations and movements in a coordinated manner.

This approach is typically branched out into 3 areas:

Sensory Regulation/Self-Regulation

This relates to a child’s capacity to appropriately increase or decrease their level of alertness or arousal to match their situation and surroundings. Children typically begin to display signs of self-regulation by age 2, where they can follow the behaviour guidelines of those around them. By age 3, most children can more-or-less generalise self-regulation strategies from previous prompts and experiences from authority figures. Children with dyspraxia however, may struggle with this, which can result in emotional stress when it comes to dealing with complex situations or social demands. With quality OT however, these children can show significant improvement.

Emotional/Behavioural Regulation

This refers to the ability to manage our emotions. From a neuro-typical stance, toddlers and teenagers can struggle in this area but over time, the connections in their brain will continue to strengthen. Kids with dyspraxia, however, can struggle to make these connections on their own which is where OT is extremely beneficial.

Cognitive Regulation

This helps to encourage a child’s ability to use the mental processes necessary to improve their problem-solving abilities. This is particularly important when it comes to concentrating on school tasks and teaching persistence and perseverance skills.

At the Integrated International School, we provide Occupational Therapy under our Support Services. Our therapists will work one-to-one in our purpose-built OT space and focus on specific skill development for children with learning difficulties, while providing advice and strategies to teachers which they can implement and adapt to the classroom setting. This collaborative approach also ensures that everyone including parents are working together to provide the best outcome for the child.

If you’d like to find out more about our special education Singapore Support Services and learning approach at the Integrated International School, please get in touch with our friendly Admissions team, click here to enquire.

The Benefits of Smaller Class Sizes

In today’s fast-paced society of technological and media advances, children are often portrayed as little adults, and the pressure to succeed can be overwhelming for them. We’re seeing more and more children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Anxiety and behavioural difficulties. These students may be overlooked in bigger schools because of larger class sizes and lower teacher-to-student ratios. If special needs education support services aren’t offered on campus, they can be found outside of school; however, this means more cost, time and effort for both the parents and child.

At the Integrated International School (IIS), as you step into one of our inclusive classrooms, you’ll notice not only the wonderful neurodiversity among students but the teacher-to-student ratio (1:5) and overall class size. With our smaller class settings and tailored educational approach, each student receives the differentiated yet inclusive learning experience they deserve, as well as developing balanced perspectives and a greater understanding of their fellow students.

When IIS was first established over 10 years ago, a key factor that stood out for parents and continues to do so, is our commitment to an individualized education. Here are several important benefits of smaller class sizes and individualization:

A smaller classroom setting can be adapted to fit the needs of all the students.

Teachers can quickly build a relationship with a smaller group of students and tailor their approach according to the learning styles of each person. A student who struggles to comprehend a one-pager may receive a shorter summary of the storyline. This means that the student is receiving the same content and learning experience as his/her peer. Modifications such as this are a daily support our students benefit from because our teachers have the time and resources to identify students and their learning difficulties in our intimate classes.

Lessons and projects are more hands-on.

Students have the opportunity to do the work rather than just learn about it! Smaller classrooms enable students to get more involved with the subjects they are learning about. Rather than just listening to a teacher lecture about a topic, they are given a practical and hands-on learning experience.

Smaller classes encourage participation.

Standing in front of a big class can be scary especially for shy, anxious children and children with language delays. But in a less intimidating environment, students feel more comfortable and confident to pay attention, ask questions and speak up. Since students feel more motivated to participate, they tend to thoroughly enjoy learning. Students can share their ideas and ask questions on subjects they don’t understand without any fear of what others may think.

Students receive more feedback from their teachers.

Communication is critical to ensuring each student understands their strengths and areas of improvement. Therefore, more feedback from teachers results in a better, more effective learning experience. When a teacher has 30 essays to grade, they will tend to spend less time on each one and struggle to provide a more thorough assessment of their students work.

There is more opportunity to learn from classmates.

A smaller school community means that students have a better chance to get to know their classmates and make friends outside of their grade level. In smaller classes, each student’s contribution is acknowledged, especially in discussion settings. Children can learn from one another based on the contributions they make during class.

A smaller class will ultimately make a more cohesive unit than a larger one. A class of 30 students may encourage the formation of cliques, resulting in students not engaging with each other and often only socializing with whom they are most comfortable with. However, in a smaller class setting, students will have the opportunity to interact with and form relationships with all of their classmates, build strong relationships with their teachers, ensuring that the class is more supportive of each other.

For more information on our classes and curriculum, please contact our Admissions team at admissions@iis.edu.sg or call +65 6466-4475.