When we have a question...we often Google….
But sometimes you cannot find the answer you are looking for - or maybe you are not asking the right question.
There are always a lot of questions when it comes to autism, or ASD.
We answer so many in our sessions but we wanted to answer some of the questions that people ask online - because no question about autism is ever wasted...the more you know the more it helps!
What are the three main symptoms of autism?
These vary somewhat depending on the age, sex and intellectual ability of the client, but, if I had to pick three that are present in the majority of people I see, they would be:
- Problems in the way a person communicates with others in social situations. My clients generally struggle to know what to say in unstructured situations, and whilst they might be able to talk about their interests, they lack flexibility in the range of topics they can talk about.
- Overwhelming anxiety about the world that gets in the way of school or work and causes problems when trying to form friendships and relationships with others. It is the autism that causes the anxiety, and sometimes an anxious presentation is the first sign there is a problem.
- Interests that are unusual in their intensity or topic. Most often, my clients immerse themselves in mathematical or scientific interests, which I expect is because these subjects are compatible with the way their brains work (i.e. black and white with no grey areas). I think it is good for self-esteem, although it can become obsessive…
What is an autistic person like?
My clients are generally very caring people – possibly to their detriment. They think a lot about the people around them and the world and can get stuck in these thoughts, to the extent that they then withdraw or become depressed. They are also people who are perplexed by the behaviour of others and will often go to extraordinary lengths to try to ‘fit in’.
What is autism caused by?
There are many ‘risk factors’ that increase a person’s likelihood of having autism, such as low birth weight or premature birth; but these are risk factors for a number of developmental problems, and for every one person with autism who ticks a ‘risk factor’ box, there is a person with autism who does not. There are also many people who have several ‘risk factors’ but who do not have autism.
We know that autism is something people are born with; you do not ‘catch it’ as a young person and poor parenting cannot ‘create’ it. What we do see however in most cases is a family history of autism. Our clients often say that a near relative has a diagnosis of autism or would likely get one if assessed. We therefore expect that genetics play an important part.
Can you be slightly autistic?
No, and I think it is insulting to people with a diagnosis of autism to claim that you are. Autism is a developmental disability, and it can make life incredibly hard for people with a diagnosis. To claim that we are all ‘slightly autistic’ distracts from this. No one would claim to have a ‘slight’ learning disability – you either do or you do not.
There is a misconception that the ‘spectrum’ of autism spans into non-autistic individuals, but it does not. We do not all have ‘traits of autism’; there are just individual differences in the way that we all present. The spectrum refers to the severity by which a person is affected by their autism and is not continuum from ‘normal’ to ‘autism’.
Can a child with autism lead a normal life?
By ‘normal’ I assume people mean having a job and getting married. In which case, yes! Most of my clients learn to cope with their difficulties and find an employer and/or a partner who is accepting of them. My advice to clients is to find a vocation that uses their strengths; their difficulties will become less apparent then, which is altogether better for psychological health.
For clients who have a learning disability alongside their autism, this will be much harder for them, and they may require support into adulthood.
Is autism a birth defect?
No. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means something happened to the brain of people with autism when it was developing during pregnancy. In autism, the impact is that the person sees the world a little differently than people without autism. It creates a form of social disability - but this is not a defect.
People with autism are not ‘broken’, they just experience things differently to the average person, and whilst this can cause problems for the person, it also comes with many wonderful strengths. If these strengths are channelled, the person does not look 'defective', but is instead a genius!
We love to answer your questions - if you are worried about a family member or yourself then please do have a read around the website and find out more.