1.1 It is important to recognise that each person on the autistic spectrum has their own individual abilities, needs, strengths, gifts and interests because no two individuals are the same. People on the autistic spectrum have their own set of unique characteristics and vary from one to another in terms of their abilities. Some clients may have similar needs, for example, assistance with money. However no two individuals on the autistic spectrum are the same so it is important not too make assumptions about them.
1.2 The types of difficulties that individuals tend to experience can be generalised into 3 different groups. These are known as the Triad of Impairments. These are: 1. Language and communication with others
2. Flexibility of thought
3. Social Interaction and relationships
Some examples of these are
Difficulties understanding jokes, puns and sarcasm
Not understanding instructions, doing exactly as instructed. Difficulty in working out metaphors
Not responding when spoken to, may appear to be deaf although hearing is within normal range.
1.3 The term spectrum was introduced in the 1970’s by Dr Lorna Wing and Dr Judith Gould. The word spectrum emphasises the fact that while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will effect individuals in different ways. The spectrum ranges from those severely effected to very high functioning. The autistic spectrum includes various sub-conditions or variations of autism. Asperger Syndrome – Although and features of Autism and Asperger Syndrome are the same, those with Asperger Syndrome have average or above average intelligence and no obvious delay in developing language. It is the lack of language delay that is seen as the key feature of Asperger Syndrome. People with autism but are above average intelligence but were delayed in developing language are usually described as having ‘high functioning autism’ Atypical autism is the term used when the person’s behaviour pattern fits most but not all the criteria for typical Autism.
Atypical autism is likely to become noticeable after 3 years of age and it is a type of autism that may go undiagnosed for years. As well as being late onset, typically after 3 years of age, there are usually insufficient difficulties in one or two of the three main areas required for a diagnosis of autism: social skills, language development and imaginative expression. Pathological demand avoidance syndrome (PDA) is a pervasive developmental disorder related to, but significantly different from, Autism and Asperger. PDA was first described by Professor Elizabeth Newson, who drew attention to a group of children that often reminded people of children with autism but seemed to be different in other ways. The profile these children displayed didn’t easily fall into diagnostic categories. Subsequent clinical accounts and research has led to PDA being increasingly considered as a condition within the autism spectrum.
1.4 Our senses, sight, hearing , taste, touch and smell, are responsible for everything that we learn about and experience in the world. We normally take our senses for granted, except on rare occasion, seeing something spectacular or listening to a child’s first word. However this is not the case, particularly for those on the autistic spectrum. Although they see/hear/smell/taste and touch the same things as us, the way in which they perceive these it significantly different. This can be described as having sensory integration difficulties, Sensory processing disorder or sensory sensitivity. 1.5
The following are some conditions which are associated with the autistic spectrum but can also occur on their own. Learning Disability – This is the most common co-occurring condition with autistic spectrum conditions. Historically, Autism was only recognised in individuals with severe learning difficulties. Epilepsy – Approximately 25-30% of people with and autistic spectrum condition have epilepsy. This compares to just 1% of the general population. ADHD – Poor attention span together with marked over activity. Understand how autistic spectrum conditions can impact on the lives of
individuals and those around them.
2.1 It is important to remember that everyone is different and has their own individual experience. In some cases a diagnosis will not be made until, for example the individual is in their 60’s having worked all their life, got married and had a family, but obviously always feeling like a bit of an outsider. Others are obviously very different to other children from an early age and need alot of specialists, help and support – as do the parents. Second, the impact of the autistic spectrum condition is not primarily about the autism itself. IT is more about how it effects a particular individual at a given time, taking into account the individuals mood, environment and the way others treat them.
2.2, 2.3 Stereotypes tend to be made by those who lack understanding whether is unintentional or not. Understanding is the key to accepting and valuing all differences. Whether it is about our race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever else makes up an individual’s identity. It is this lack of understanding that normally leads to stereotyped views, prejudice and discrimination. This sadly is mostly the case for those with autistic spectrum conditions and has a large affect on not only the individual but also the individuals family. Autistic spectrum conditions appear to be more common among males than females. It is believed that this was due to genetic differences between the sexes. However many believe this may be due to gender bias in the diagnostic criteria. It is thought that autistic spectrum conditions are displayed differently in males than they are in females. Society portrays the female role as a more social one and females with autistic spectrum conditions learn to act in social settings by copying other peoples behaviour, essentially, subconsciously acting. This may cause any social and communication difficulties to be overlooked.
2.4 When trying to help an individual understand their autism it is important not tell them everything at once. You do not want to flood them with information as the chances are not alot of the information you give will be taken on board. It is important for people to understand their condition as much as they can. It can be helpful for someone to have an explanation as to why they find the world such a confusing and challenging place. Equally their family need support and information on the individual’s condition.
Understand different theories and concepts about autism
3.1 There are a number of prominent theories regarding Autism. Research indicates that autism may be a disorder of the cortex area of the brain which controls reasoning, problem-solving, memory, voluntary movement and sensation. The autistic brain functions differently than an average brain. The structural differences in the brain, such as mini-columns with numerous small brain cells, cause a person with autism to think, perceive and react to things differently than a person with typical brain development. Several theories based on environmental factors have been proposed to address the remaining risk. Some of these theories focus on prenatal environmental factors, such as agents that cause birth defects, and others focus on the environment after birth, such as children’s diets. It is generally now agreed that psychological factors in the development of the child do not cause Autism, including now disregarded theories concerning bad parenting, unruliness (bad behavior), and mental illness. Because it is now agreed on by researchers that children with Autism and PDD are born with the disorder or born with the potential to develop it, psychological factors have been completely ruled out, to the benefit of families that are dealing with an autistic child.
3.2 The autistic spectrum is very wide. It covers those who are able to cope reasonably well in society right through to those whose whole lives and behaviour are affected by it. To use one terminology to refer to all individuals would not be appropriate or helpful.
3.3 Some of the terminology such as in diagnosis where the individual is classed as having a disability can be useful to put support in place however it also labels the individual as being someone ‘in need’. Some of the terminology tends to focus on limitations or what the individual can’t do rather than what they can do. Some of the terminology is helpful when it is shared by different groups it gives them points of reference to work from.
3.4 Autism as just a different way of being
The basis of the movement is the view that Autism is not a disorder but simply a different way of being. They believe a cure for Autism would destroy the original personality of the autistic person in a misguided attempt to replace them with a different (neurotypical) person. Some of the goals of the movement are to challenge the ethics and science of interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and psychiatric hospitals; to include autistic adults in Autism organizations and provide services for autistic adults; and to challenge descriptions of Autism that they consider to be pitiful, insulting, and/or incorrect. Aspies For Freedom
Aspies For Freedom is a group which is at the forefront of the Autism rights movement. The term “Aspies” refers to high-functioning autistics, or those with Asperger’s Syndrome. The aim of Aspies For Freedom (AFF) is to educate the public that Autism is not always a disability, and that there are advantages as well as disadvantages. The group also campaigns against what is sees as abusive forms of therapy, and against the idea of a cure for Autism. The AFF hopes to have autistic people recognized as a minority status group.
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