Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

  • Autism is a diagnostic term that refers to a specific way that a child or adult’s brain processes and understands the world, other people and the future. The result of seeing things in this particular way can mean that a person might struggle with social interaction/communication/imagination in conventional sense. It can also mean that people find it difficult to function in environments with conventional expectations such as school or the workplace. Having this type of ‘operating system’ can also mean that person’s physical behaviour is sometimes observably different with repetitive behaviours or pronounced movements. It can also cause a person to be very much more (or very much less) sensitive to certain senses such as light or sound.

    Processing language and understanding facial expressions can be very difficult for people with Autism and like anyone else; when faced with things that don’t make sense, they can become anxious. This can make certain activities, particularly social ones like school, work or parties quite distressing and aversive.

Autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ disorder. This means that although there are many things that people with Autism have in common, each person is different and therefore so is the way their brain works. Consequently, Autism is experienced in different ways.

Autism is a lifelong condition as it is to do with the way the brain develops. Many people with Autism go to university, hold good jobs and can live independently. Others will require more specialist support to help them function in a world that can be very confusing.

MORE ON CHILDREN AND YOUNGER PEOPLE WITH AUTISM

In young children this can look like they are detached or in their own world. Their play can be more functional than creative and their non-verbal communication (gestures, facial expressions etc) can be very difficult to read. In older children there can be difficulties in managing behaviour and special interests can become overwhelming. Finger and body mannerisms can be distinctive and they might prefer routine and order and find short notice change distressing. Social relationships can be difficult as the child matures and autistic children find developing and maintaining friendships challenging. Teenagers with autism can be particularly difficult to communicate with and can present many challenging behaviours. The combination of hormonal changes, social demands and academic pressures can have a unique impact on a child of this age – it can be a challenging time without autism! Adults with autism will likely recall the challenges of adolescence and have found social situations difficult throughout their life. Relationships at work and home can be put under strain when an unidentified influence such as autism impacts on an individual’s functioning.

MORE ON AUTISM IN ADULTS

Adults with Autism might find social situations difficult and overwhelming. They might prefer routines and order and have deep interests in certain subjects. They might appear socially awkward and rigid in the way they function preferring order and logic to spontaneity and change. Adults with autism might find it difficult to manage social relationships and appear somewhat reclusive and they might find it difficult to know what other people want or need. This is not necessarily because they don’t care but because their brains just do not work that way naturally.