What is Autism?
What is Autism (ASD)?
Autism is a life-long neurodevelopmental condition, it is estimated that at least 700,000 children and adults are autistic in the UK (National Autistic Society)
It is a spectrum condition, which means every autistic person is different, with different strengths, different needs and different levels of support that may be required.
Some autistic people may be completely independent, whereas others may need higher levels of support to do things on a daily basis. It is a hidden disability, which means you may not be able to tell if someone is Autistic.
Autism is not a medical condition, an illness or disease, it cannot be “cured”. However, autistic children and adults can be supported by therapies such as Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Talking Therapies and Coaching to support them to reach their potential.
Autism has no known cause. It is not caused by bad parenting, vaccines or diets. However, those who have autistic family members may be more likely to be autistic.
How does Autism affect people?
Autism means that people have different ways of communicating or interacting with other people. This can therefore mean that many Autistic people are misunderstood, and/or find it difficult to understand other people (particularly who are not autistic). These differences can impact on autistic people being able to make and maintain friends/relationships.
Autistic people view the world in a different way, which means they can appear more “rigid” in their thinking, finding it difficult to understand other people’s points of view or ways of doing something. They may also be very observant, noticing details of things that other people may not, or have a preference for logical/literal ways of thinking or playing, rather than imaginative.
Social Communication is how we communicate with other people, for autistic people, they have differences in their social communication. For example;
Emotions can be more “intense” for those who are autistic, they may have difficulty regulating their emotions. Autistic people can have difficulty naming and recognising their emotions or the emotions of others, they may find it difficult to interpret other people’s emotional signals or body language, resulting in them not always being able to understand or respond to how others are feeling.
Social situations may cause significant anxiety for Autistic people, their differences in communication can also impact interactions with others, therefore impacting on being able to make and maintain friendships.
Autistic people may;
Autistic people can have unique and highly focused interests, they may only want to talk about these interests, or spend long periods of time researching/pursuing these interests. These can often be a fundamental part of who they are, as their interests can often bring comfort and joy. They can also be very intense, which may limit engagement in other aspects of their life.
Autistic people often have a preference for routine and order, which can result in anxiety or distress when routines change, things are moved or out of place.
Autistic people may engage in repetitive behaviours, such as wearing the same type of clothing, eating the same brand of foods, going to the same place, having the same routine every day. They may also engage in physical repetitive movements, known as “stimming” behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping, finger twisting, posturing etc.
Autistic people often can have sensory needs that can have a significant impact on their daily life.
They may be hyper-sensitive to noise, texture, smells, lights which can be overwhelming or very uncomfortable. This can impact them in busy environments, such as class rooms or the supermarket for example.
Many Autistic people may also have sensory seeking behaviour, e.g needing to spin, jump, watch movements of toys or lights, enjoy certain sounds or textures.
Women and girls
Autism can be very different between women and men, as women can be more likely to “mask” their traits in order to fit in, they may copy or mimic people who do not have autism to try and appear more like their peers. Some men may also do this.
Autistic women/girls may be more likely to have friends or appear that they have fewer social difficulties, however they may feel very anxious, burnt-out or overwhelmed from social interactions. They may feel like they are “acting” and hiding who they truly are. Autistic women and girls may hide their repetitive behaviours or sensory needs, that may go unnoticed.
The result of masking and lack of understanding of female autism, has therefore impacted many women and girls being able to access an assessment, as they are do not “appear” autistic. They may also be misdiagnosed as having mental health conditions such as anxiety.
Other conditions that can affect Autistic people;
At 360, we have a dedicated team of experienced clinicians to support you or your child on your assessment journey. We understand seeking a diagnosis can feel daunting or overwhelming, and we ensure that we provide a person-centred approach, considering you or your child’s needs and accommodating when required.
In seeking a diagnosis, it can help you to better understanding you or your child’s traits, strengths and differences and therefore, what support you or your child may need.
An assessment for Autism is a comprehensive process which includes obtaining a medical and developmental history, completion of screening questionnaires and an assessment using gold standard tools.