Psychology Melbourne Blog

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Mild Autism Spectrum Disorder

Edited by Jill Wright,

mild autism spectrum disorder


I was with a friend and her four-year-old son in the offices of a maternal and child health centre when the nurse told my friend to “Get him assessed immediately!.”

According to the nurse, “It could be Autism Spectrum, but most likely a mild form.” I know from personal experience that the boy does have poor emotional regulation, and low confidence. On the other hand he is socially well-rounded, albeit slow to warm up. I also know that Autism Spectrum Disorder in its mild form is too often misdiagnosed.

We live in a world with an alarming rate of increase in the diagnosis of many childhood developmental and behavioural disabilities such as Autism Spectrum. Having seen many cases of both conditions over the years, I know that they are a serious and debilitating condition and parents need to take them seriously. Autism spectrum is often diagnosed through parent/teacher reports, assessment tools and mostly observation. The diagnosis of the mild form of the condition can be problematic.

My friend left the office ashen-faced at the thought that her child might have a disability. My advice to her, however, was to forget the potential diagnosis and simply focus on implementing strategies to manage the concerning behaviours such as low confidence and poor emotional regulation. That could involve building on his social communication skills to improve his general confidence in approaching new people or building on his confidence through conversation, in group or individual therapy; through role play activities at home,; through the wonderful array of books on emotions or perhaps through extra-curricular activities such as engaging in team sport or music/dance classes. While it involves attention and hard work, it can be done and the results are worthwhile.

And sometimes we forget that we all at times, display some of the symptoms of mild ASD? And in four-year-olds, occasional outbreaks of these mild “abnormalities” are not so abnormal.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.