I have a Level 2 qualification in Understanding Autism so I thought I’d share a bit about Autism for those who aren’t sure what it is.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism isn’t a single condition. Instead it’s a spectrum of related disorders which share similar or the same symptoms. Each individual person on the spectrum disorder has a degree of problems with communication, social skills, empathy and flexible behaviour.
The level of the problems and the combination of the symptoms will vary between individuals. The three autism spectrum disorders that are referred to are:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Persuasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD – NOS)
Autism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella for a number of conditions under one heading so if someone is diagnosed with autism it could mean they have:
- Autistic Disorder
- Rett’s Disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Persuasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified
Autism is a lifelong condition that can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the individual. Autism itself isn’t a learning disability but around 50% of individuals with autism will have learning disabilities and will affect the level of support they need throughout their lives. It’s important to know and understand that there isn’t a cure for Autism. The older an individual with autism gets, the more aware they become of their differences which can be when anxiety and depression begins.
Most children will need extra help and support at school. Some children will be better supported at a school that specifically caters for those with autism whereas other children will go through mainstream school, college and sometimes university with the support of a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO).
What is High Functioning Autism?
High – Functioning Autism is at one end of the spectrum which means that the signs and symptoms are less severe than other individuals with autism.
An individual with High – Functioning Autism would normally have average or above average intelligence. They will also have early language delays, unlike a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
One of the major differences to other individuals with autism is that those with HFA and Asperger’s Syndrome usually want to be involved with other people but they don’t know how to go about interacting. They may still have problems understanding emotions and facial expressions of other people or non-verbal communication. This can lead to them being teased which can make them feel like social outcasts, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
The most typical symptoms of high-functioning autism include:
- Delays in early language development.
- Unable to interact with others.
- Delays in their motor skills.
- Difficulty understanding sarcasm or non-verbal use of language.
- Sensitivity and strong reactions to sights, sounds, odours and textures.
Sign of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in younger children:
- Speech delay.
- Speech sounds monotonous or flat.
- Single word communication instead of sentences.
- Repeats certain phrases and words.
Response to others
- Difficulty in showing and accepting affection.
- Unresponsive when their name is called despite being able to hear.
- Reacting negatively when asked to do something.
Interacting with others
- Seem uninterested in interacting with others in the usual way. Instead, finding owns ways to interact.
- Unaware of others’ personal space.
- Show a negative reaction when others enter their personal space.
- Unable to enjoy social situations.
- Prefers to play alone.
- Unable to make eye contact.
- Flicking or clicking fingers, flapping hands, rocking backwards and forwards in a repetitive way.
- Very anxious or upset if their routine is disrupted or changed in anyway.
- Difficultly accepting certain foods – texture and colour as well as taste.
- Repetitive play such as lining toys up or stacking blocks side by side in a line instead of one on top of the other or building something with them.
Signs of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in older children and teenagers
- Avoids using spoken language.
- Prefer to use pre-learned words or phrases instead of new whole sentences.
- Talks at people rather than a two way conversation.
- Takes things very seriously and doesn’t understand jokes, sarcasm or figures of speech.
- Unable to understand social rules.
- Unable to adapt their speech with tone and content in different situations.
- Having only a couple of friends because they find it difficult to form new friendships.
- Interested in a specific topic or subject.
It’s important to remember that children with autism become adults with autism. It does not disappear. If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.