autism head pic


Autism and autism spectrum disorder are general terms for a group of complex disorders that effect brain development. You may think that you don’t know anyone with autism but 1 in 100 people have autism to a certain degree.  Just think about how people you went school with, the chances are you knew at least someone with autism or asperger’s syndrome. Autism comes in various degrees and can be significantly different in character and severity from one person to the next. However, in general people who are autistic struggle with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviours and routines.

+   What is it?

Autism is often used to refer to a variety of different disorders and syndromes all of which effect early brain development. The umbrella diagnosis can be used for:

  • Autistic disorder
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified

+   Difficulties

People with conditions that fall under the autism spectrum will display a number of common behaviours and difficulties to varying degrees:

  • Trouble with social interaction
    • Difficulty making eye contact
    • Very narrow and focused range of play, often disregarding others interests
    • Impaired ability to make friends
    • Find it hard to read signals from others that most of us take for granted
      • Tone, facial expressions and body language
    • Difficulty putting themselves in another person’s shoes to understand what they may be thinking or feeling
  • Challenges with communication
    • 25% of autistics are non-verbal (they can’t communicate with words)
      • Most learn to communicate through different methods
    • Difficulty sustaining a conversation
    • May talk for a long time about a very specific topic with little attention paid to the other persons interest
  • Repetitive behaviours
    • They like routine
      • And are often inflexibility when it comes to changing or altering a routine
    • Rocking and twirling
    • In some cases they may take up self-abusive behaviours
      • Head banging
      • Biting

Some will struggle with other difficulties also:

  • Poor co-ordination
  • Intellectual disability
    • 50% will struggle with some intellectual disability
    • 50% will be of average or above average ability
  • Physical health issues
    • May have problems with sleep or digestive disturbances
  • Some may suffer from Epilepsy or seizures
  • Dislike of their senses being over stimulated
    • Bright light and colours
    • Loud noises
    • Specific smells
    • Being touched

+   Advantages

Many people with autism learn to embrace their differences and to see the advantages of bringing something different to the world. People with autism have amazing strengths and some will excel in

  • Music
  • Math
  • Art
  • Learning information

+   Causes

Autism occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and there is not one specific cause. Usually autism happens due to a number of rare gene mutations working in combination with environmental stresses at or before birth

  • Gene mutations
    • Scientists have identified a number of gene mutations associated with autism
    • Very few gene mutations will cause autism on their own
    • Gene mutations just lead to increased genetic risk
  • Environmental risk factors
    • In combination with increased genetic risk certain factors may increase the risk of autism including:
      • Advanced parental age
      • Maternal illness during pregnancy
      • Oxygen deprivation at birth or other birthing difficulties

It’s thought that Autism cause difficulties in communication because the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters are abnormal

Autism is 4-5 times more common among boys than girls

+   Cure

There is no cure for autism and autism is a lifelong condition. However early diagnosis and intervention can help to reduce the severity of some of the behavioural difficulties of associated with autism

  • Behavioural counseling
    • Focused on structured learning and improvement of
      • Communication
      • Social Skills
  • Family counseling
    • With parents and siblings to help learn methods of living with family member who has autism

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