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Frequently asked questions about autism

BY: Josephine Ohenewa Bampoe
Frequently asked questions about autism
Frequently asked questions about autism

Autism is not a disease. It is a neurodevelopmental condition. It doesn’t go away, but with appropriate intervention, the child makes progress with their communication skills. Early intervention is key to developing their communication skills.

The cause is unknown (idiopathic) although it is believed to be caused by many factors.
People are born with autism. Do not stigmatise and discriminate against people with autism.

• Does every child who is not walking have cerebral palsy?

No. There are so many other conditions that can affect a child’s walking apart from cerebral palsy. These include Rett Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Charcot-Marie Tooth diseases and Autoimmune diseases such as myasthenia gravis.

There are children with cerebral palsy who walk but might have other motor difficulties.
Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of movement, balance and posture resulting from damage to the immature brain.

• Why is the speech and language therapist working on attention and turn taking instead of speech?

Before children learn to talk there is the need to develop their early communication skills.
These skills include eye contact, pointing, turn taking and joint attention. They are the foundation of speech, language and communication and considered necessary for communication development in general.

If a child has difficulties with his early communication skills, it will impact on their language development (i.e. play skills, understanding language, using language to express themselves and speech)

• My child produces the /s/ sound as /th/? Instead of ‘sand’ he says ‘thand’. He is five years old. Should I be worried?

What your child is doing is referred to as a lisp. It is very common in children. When children are learning to talk, some of these errors are ‘normal’.

Lisping is one of such errors that children make when they are learning how to talk. They often grow out of these mispronunciations with age.

• Different studies report a wide range (three to seven years) by which the /s/ sound is acquired by children.

However, it is important to investigate if this is the only sound your child is mispronouncing and whether their lisp is affecting how they are understood by others.
If it is just this sound, people should generally understand them.

If you are still very concerned about your child’s speech, it might be helpful to see a speech therapist who will assess your child’s speech and advise accordingly.

• My child has autism, does he need to be in a special school?

There is really not a straightforward answer to this question. It depends on a lot of factors. How old is your child?
Are their difficulties significant and in what area of their functioning is this difficulty more pronounced e.g. verbal communication, social skills, independence, self-help skills etc?

Are they getting support in the mainstream school? With support, children with autism can be in mainstream schools, depending on their needs.

The challenge we have in Ghana is that most mainstream schools do not have that kind of support or a unit for children with learning and/or communication difficulties.

This therefore makes it difficult for them to support these children.

Therefore, make sure you discuss with your child’s mainstream school the kind of support they have capacity for.

Discuss with your child’s speech therapist how the child can be supported if you realise the school is willing to support but might need some help.

The writer is Speech & Language Therapist/Clinical Tutor, University of Ghana. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.