Autism Awareness – Rearranging the Puzzle Pieces
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Autism Awareness Day is an opportunity for us to talk about a condition that’s often thrown around in Facebook comments and anti-vax speak, but no one completely understands.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism is a lifelong developmental ailment. It affects how an individual communicates with and responds to others and their environment. That seems like an easy enough definition. But here is where it gets complicated – ASD is a spectrum condition, which means it does not display itself in cookie-cutter symptoms in each case. Though all of them will face certain difficulties, the intensity and range are different.
For example, some individuals with autism can lead fairly independent lives. Other’s may need full-time support throughout their life due to learning disabilities. In terms of experiencing the world around them, people with autism might be over-sensitive, or under-sensitive to sounds, colours, smells, and touch etc. and how they respond to them. ASD starts at the age of three and is a lifelong condition.
What causes Autism?
According to extensive research, it is suggested that genetics and environmental factors such as parental age play a role. The development of the brain and wider nervous system is different. It is these differences that change how the brain develops and processes information. ASD should not be confused with conditions of typical neurodevelopment. The way ASD affects individuals is the ability to:
- communicate effectively
- develop and maintain effective relationships
- think and act flexibly
- perceive and manage sensory stimulus
Autism is not caused by an individuals upbringing, their social environment, nor is it the fault of their parents, family, or themselves.
How do you recognise if someone might be on the spectrum? Only doctors and medical professionals can correctly diagnose autism, but there are a few things you can observe before you make an appointment with a GP.
- Difficulties in social interactions
- Lack of understanding or awareness of other’s emotions/feelings
- Delayed or impaired language and communication skills
- Unusual patterns of thought
- Unusual physical behaviour like repetitive movements
- A set routine of behaviour which if interrupted causes the child to become upset
Cure and Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no cure for ASD. However, some methods support learning, and reducing difficulties for individuals with ASD.
Try to recognise when your child is going through sensory overload. They could be covering their ears, eyes or pacing the floor and become obviously distressed. Try to use a calming voice and talking them through their anxiety.
Children with autism find it difficult to develop an interest in topics that aren’t of their liking. Try to combat this by picking something they find interesting and working it into the lesson you’re trying to teach them. This could be used for anything – dinosaurs and brushing your teeth, trains and why we should look both ways when crossing the road.
Choice of Words
People with ASD take everything literally. Similies, metaphors, and reading between the lines are not going to work. Keep your instructions and conversations as simple, and direct as possible.
A lot of people with ASD aren’t big on making eye contact. This shouldn’t offend you. Take it in your stride and do not force them to look at you when you’re having a conversation. Many people with ASD can either listen or look, not both at the same time. So just because they aren’t looking at you doesn’t mean they’re not listening.
Time to Change
Change in routine or environment is not easy for people with ASD. They aren’t open to changes. If you want to introduce a change, do it slowly, and make sure you talk them through what is going to change before you introduce it. Give them time to assimilate.
From Autism Awareness To Autism Acceptance
People with ASD are people. They have the same needs and rights as all of us and deserve a supportive and nurturing environment. The aim of autism awareness should be to open a dialogue that eventually leads to autism acceptance. Autism Awareness Day is an effort to dispel any false notions people have about ASD. It is to bring rumour into the light and show it for the false narrative it is. There is more than enough room in this world for everyone – we should make space for those with ASD. It won’t reduce space for anyone else, only enrich our lives.
Originally published Apr 02, 2021 11:30:02 AM, updated May 17, 2021