It can be hard to create awareness of autism as people with the condition do not ‘look’ disabled: parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood.
Autism is rare. It’s a developmental condition that causes difficulty with social interaction, connecting with people, learning, speech, language and communication.
It also causes sensory overload – or under-load – where hyper-sensitivity to sounds, smells, touch, tastes, light, patterns and colours can cause extreme distress, or the lack of sensitivity can cause damage or injury.
Some present with severe difficulties; others are able to function with milder symptoms. In the main, Autism creates a frightening, confusing and unpredictable world, where nothing makes much sense. To compensate and cope with this, individuals use various coping mechanisms, routines, rules, fixations and various other methods of dealing with it.
The term Spectrum is used with Autism because the symptoms experienced by each individual is on a sliding scale, from manageable to extremely severe. Each person has their own mix of symptoms and severity.
Autism affects each individual in individual ways. However, there are three main areas of difficulty:
- difficulty with social interaction: not understand the unwritten social rules which most of us pick up without thinking: they may stand too close to another person for example, or start an inappropriate subject of conversation
- appear to be insensitive because they have not recognised how someone else is feeling
- prefer to spend time alone rather than seeking out the company of other people
- not seek comfort from other people
- appear to behave ‘strangely’ or inappropriately, as it is not always easy for them to express feelings, emotions or needs.
- difficulty with social communication facial expressions or tone of voice
- jokes and sarcasm
- common phrases and sayings; an example might be the phrase ‘It’s cool’, which people often say when they think that something is good, but strictly speaking, means that it’s a bit cold.
- difficulty with social imagination:understand and interpret other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions
- predict what will happen next, or what could happen next
- understand the concept of danger, for example that running on to a busy road poses a threat to them
- engage in imaginative play and activities: children with autism may enjoy some imaginative play but prefer to act out the same scenes each time
- prepare for change and plan for the future
- cope in new or unfamiliar situations.
- Difficulties with social imagination should not be confused with a lack of imagination. Many people with autism are very creative and may be, for example, accomplished artists, musicians or writers.
People with autism have said that the world, to them, is a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, and which can cause them considerable anxiety.
In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family and social life may be harder for them. Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, and some people with autism may wonder why they are ‘different’.
As the three main areas of difficulty, people with autism may have:
- love of routines
- sensory sensitivity
- special interests
- learning disabilities
Asperger’s is a form of autism whereby the individual is generally of above-average (or at least average) intelligence, and less problems with speech – but will still have problems understanding processing language.
Many tend to be quite high-functioning and independent, using their intelligence to overcome obstacles and managing their condition – and can do so without even knowing they have it. Some are highly-functioning enough to fly under the radar and not even be diagnosed, with certain characteristics being put down to being introverted, and having general mental health issues and behavioural problems.
While there are similarities with autism, people with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average, or above average, intelligence. They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism, but they may have specific learning difficulties. These may include dyslexia and dyspraxia or other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy.
With the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives.
Detail-orientated, super-focused, obsessive, and with their high intelligence, people with Asperger’s
Many functioning people with Asperger’s are attracted into some form of computer-based career, like programming, where their natural skills and preference to work alone comes into its own. Others are be extremely imaginative and creative and they become accomplished writers, musicians, and artists.
What links their abilities and accomplishment within both areas is actually their limited ability to be imaginative, and their obsessive nature, repetitive behaviour and love of routines. These patterns can be limiting, but under the right circumstances it allows them to excel at areas they are good at
Asperger’s In Adults & Women
Adult Asperger Syndrome diagnoses aren’t common.
In fact, Asperger Syndrome diagnoses in general are pretty rare. In girls and women they’re even rarer.
Too many Asperger “sufferers” are “high-functioning” because they’re smart enough to overcome the obstacles they face. Females tend to be overlooked because they don’t often display more “classic” (read: “stereotype“) symptoms.