Hopesprings Consultancy

Telephone: 01506 419819
Email: info@hopespringsctc.com

We understand that counselling and therapy can be a difficult first step for our clients to take and therefore we ensure that we remain sympathetic and supportive to your specific situation, whatever it may be and whatever support you may require.

 

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Telephone: 01506 419819

Autism

Autism

There are an estimated 700,000 people in the UK on the autistic spectrum, which equates to one in 100 people. So, what exactly is autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that affects certain aspects of behaviour, including interacting with others. It works on a spectrum. This means that while all autistic people share similar traits, they will be affected in different ways and at differing severity.

As autism is considered a ‘hidden’ disability (i.e. no one can tell by looking) it is often misunderstood. According to the National Autistic Society, while 99.5% of people in the UK have heard of autism, only 16% of autistic people and their families feel the public understands how autism affects behaviour.

On this page, we will look at the way autism affects people’s view of the world and the challenges autistic people may face. We will also explore how getting support along the way can help improve quality of life.

In the video below we reached out on social media to ask autistic people and their families, ‘what is one thing you wish people knew about autism?’ here are their responses:

 

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. This means that someone on the autistic spectrum will have it for life – it is not an illness or something that can be ‘cured’. Autistic people often say being autistic is a key part of who they are.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, people are affected differently. There are certain qualities that those on the spectrum will share, however the severity and nature of these will differ from person to person. Some autistic people will therefore need more support than others.

Below we look at some of the key characteristics of autism.

 

Communication difficulties

Autistic people can find communicating and interacting with others difficult. Interpreting what others say and the way they say it can be challenging. Autistic people tend to take things very literally and can struggle to understand non-verbal communication, tone of voice and sarcasm.

Sometimes the language itself isn’t a problem, but knowing what is expected from someone in a conversation is. This can lead an autistic person to miss social cues in a conversation.

 

Sensory sensitivity

Those on the spectrum may be under or over-sensitive to light, colour, sound, touch or taste. Being over-sensitive to these things can make some parts of everyday life difficult, causing the person to feel overwhelmed. If they are under-sensitive to something, they may become fascinated by things like lights or spinning objects.

 

Routines and repetitive behaviours

Having a set routine can be very comforting to autistic people. Dealing with communication difficulties and sensory sensitivity can cause anxiety, so making an unpredictable world a little more predictable feels safe.

This desire for routine, rules and repetition can make it difficult to embrace change and take a different approach to something. Autistic people may therefore feel better able to cope when preparations for change are made in advance.

 

Highly-focused interests

Autistic people often have specific and highly-focused interests. These usually begin in childhood and can change as they grow older, or stay the same. Many autistic people channel their interests into meaningful hobbies, paid work or even volunteering.

 

What causes autism?

The cause of autism continues to be researched. So far, existing research suggests there are a combination of factors, including genetic and environmental. Statistics also show that more men are diagnosed with autism than women.

 

Are there ‘treatments’ for autism?

Currently there are no ‘treatments’ or ‘cures’ for autism. There are however approaches and therapies that can help someone on the spectrum cope better with daily life. As autism affects people in different ways, there are various approaches you may wish to explore.

Many autistic people are keen to shift the focus away from ‘cures’ and ‘treatment’ and instead celebrate diversity. We are all different and learning about these differences is a small, but significant way to eradicate stigma.

 

Why diagnosis can be beneficial

Getting formally diagnosed with autism tends to happen in childhood but can happen later in life. Some people don’t feel it necessary to put a label on themselves, while others find it helpful. Here are some benefits to getting diagnosed:

• It can help the autistic person understand why they find some things more difficult than others.
• It can help parents, friends, carers etc. understand an autistic person better and learn techniques/approaches that may improve day-to-day life.
• It opens up the opportunity to access support.

 

Autism and mental health

Autistic people are more likely to be affected by mental health problems than those not on the spectrum. Unfortunately however, mental health can get overshadowed by behaviour traits of autism and therefore overlooked. Below we look at some of the common concerns autistic people can face.

 

Anxiety

In autistic people, it is estimated that around 40% have an anxiety disorder, compared to 15% of the general population (statistic from the National Autistic Society). This is thought to be down to a combination of reasons including biological differences in the brain, social difficulties and struggling with flexible approaches/responses to perceived threats.

 

Depression

We can all feel sad sometimes, but when it lasts for a long time and gets in the way of everyday life it could be depression. Again, compared to the general population, depression is more common in those on the spectrum.

Dealing with on-going challenges and anxiety can be instrumental in the development of depression in autistic people. It can be very difficult to seek help, as autistic people might find change daunting. Communicating feelings can also be difficult. Seeking professional support from a counsellor who has worked in the field of autism may help.

 

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD as it is commonly known, is a type of anxiety disorder that involves repetitive thoughts and behaviours. Because autistic people often favour routine and repetition, OCD can be overlooked. There is a difference however, with OCD causing distress in day-to-day life.