ABOUT AUTISM

WHAT IS AUTISM

‘Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.’ (NAS)

There are approximately 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK; however, this does not include the numbers who have not and do not want a diagnosis or the numbers impacted by it.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain distinctive strengths, gifts and difficulties, however, the condition can present in each individual in greatly different ways and throughout their life.

 

Each autistic person presents in totally different ways. Some people with autism have more subtle difficulties and are able to live independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.

 

The behaviours and challenges typically associated with autism are often as a result of complex differences in thinking and processing in some if not all of the following interactive ways.

Communication differences

  • Understanding body language and facial expressions

  • Finds eye contact uncomfortable

  • Understanding humour and sarcasm

  • Starting, maintaining and finishing conversations

 

Social interaction and imagination

  • Understanding different social contexts

  • Interpreting other people’s thoughts and intentions

  • Understanding own and other people’s emotions

  • Developing and understanding friendships and relationships

 

Processing differences

  • Needing more processing time

  • Transferring skills from one context to another

  • Using unstructured time

  • Flexible problem solving

  • Predicting outcomes

  • Adapting to unexpected and uncomfortable change

  • The ability to multi task

Hyper and Hypo senses

  • Hyper (over), Hypo (under) sensitivity

  • Feelings of overload such as in busy loud places

  • Fragmented perception

  • Fragmented, delayed and or distorted perception

  • Sensory shutdowns

 

Suggested Reading

 

 

NEURODIVERSITY - LINKS TO OTHER NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

There is a belief among some people that autism is a diverse condition and manifests itself in many ways.

 

There are clear links with other neurological conditions which include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Tourettes

  • Dyslexia

  • Dyscalcular

  • Dysgraphia

  • Dyspraxia

 

Suggested Reading

  • Book - Neuro Tribes - The legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity - Steve Silberman

 

ASPERGER SYNDROME

Asperger Syndrome was named after an Austrian who identified his ‘little professors’.

 

Asperger Syndrome was identified with people with intelligence who had special interests and difficulties with social and communication issues. It was also referred to as High Functioning Autism.

Since 2015 Asperger Syndrome has not been officially recognised and has been integrated within Autism. However, it can be useful to refer to books on Asperger Syndrome to gain some different insights into autism.

Suggested Reading

  • The Complete Guide to Asperger Syndrome - Tony Atwood

  • Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome - Luke Jackson

PATHOLOGICAL DEMAND AVOIDANCE (PDA)

This is where an intelligent person has to control the environment around them due to their high anxiety.

They are particularly anxious when someone tells them what to do, because they are not in control. Thus, any demand placed on them is a threat. Even simple demands such as a child being told to get dressed in the morning are perceived as a major threat.

People with PDA can have good social and communication skills which they use to manipulate situations. 

PDA is not officially recognised as a condition but is being increasingly accepted as a major component of some people with autism.

The early work on PDA was conducted by Elizabeth Newsome in Nottingham.

 

 

Suggested Reading

CO-MORBIDITY - LINKS TO MEDICAL CONDITIONS

For many people with autism a major part of their interaction with the world feels confusing and intense which can lead to anxiety and depression.

 

In addition to this there is sometimes a strong correlation between autism and other medical conditions.

 

  • General and social anxiety

  • Depression and Bipolar

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Epilepsy

  • Downs Syndrome

  • Stomach Issues

  • Eating Disorders

  • Gender Reassignment

 

Suggested Reading

 

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