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What is Autism?

The word Autism is used to describe a number of presentations such Aspergers, Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and pathological demand avoidance (PDA). The word 'spectrum' describes the range of difficulties that people on the autism spectrum may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning challenges and require continued specialist support.

The main areas of difficulty are in social communication and interaction, with associated restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

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The level of support required by individuals varies.  Some of the more commonly-noticed characteristics include:

  • Differences in expressive communication, such as discomfort with eye contact, unusual speech patterns, or difficulty using spoken language in the usual and expected way.

  • A systematic, procedural style of thinking and problem-solving which may seem pedantic. 

  • Difficulty predicting and interpreting others’ behaviour, understanding the unwritten rules of conversation, friendships, social cues and expectations.

  • Sensory issues, such as hypersensitivity or to certain sounds, smells, touch, or visual stimuli.

  • Strengths in visual-spatial information processing and attention to detail that others may miss.

  • Strong preference for routine, engaging in repetitive movements and behaviours, and unusually intense or narrow interests.

  • An ability to maintain focus on preferred tasks and topics of interest for extended lengths of time.

  • Difficulty interpreting nonverbal communication and abstract or non-literal language.

  • A tendency to amass a large body of detailed knowledge related to areas of interest.

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Different Autistic presentations 

Some people don't fit the classic picture of Autism and it may be more difficult to understand the difficulties they face.  Many people receive other diagnoses before Autism is recognised. The missed or misdiagnosis can be common.   Among others, women and girls often do not fit in with the classic picture of Autism and as a result get missed.  A diagnosis of Autism can sometimes be masked by other issues such as mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and relationship difficulties.

 

What we now know is that this 'masking' can cause some of the difficulties seen in some autistic individuals such as challenging behaviours and mental health presentations. 

At Aspect we work to explore whether autism may be the reason why some people struggle more with their mental health,, social interactions and self esteem and vulnerabilities. 

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