It’s a question that we hear almost every day - not only from those who we see within work hours, but from friends and relatives interested to find out the definition of the word.
Lisa is a psychologist with 12 years experience - seven of these specialising in child development and mental health - and yet her understanding of what autism is, and the various ways it can affect children, continues to develop all the time.
“The more children I meet with autism, the more insight I get into how it presents.”
At this point in time, this is how Lisa would explain what autism is…
- A developmental disorder - something a child is born with which affects the way they see and experience the world. Their brain works differently to the brain of a child who does not have autism.
- It causes the child to have a social disability: Most children know intuitively how to communicate and interact with others, but children with autism do not. They must ‘learn’ how to do this, and often never achieve the same level of competence as children without autism; they continue to communicate and interact in a ‘disordered’ way.
- We live in a very social world and from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep, we are required to be ‘social’. Having a disability in the way you communicate and interact with others is therefore extremely problematic. It is this that creates severe levels of anxiety in children with autism.
- Furthermore, children with autism also often have issues with sleep, constipation, diet and their processing of sensory information, which all create further impairment. Life is harder for these children.
- There are several behaviours that are characteristic of children with autism and I think these develop in part to help the child cope with their difficulties. They are also more compatible with the way their brain works. These behaviours include, a preference for things to be the same and having intense or unusual interests.
Statistics in 2018 shared that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but Lisa wants people to remember that autism is not just about the disability.
“It causes children to see the world in a different way.
The world needs people who think differently, otherwise it would be boring and innovation would stop!”