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Autism is something that people are born with and which stays with them their whole life. Autism is not an illness in any way or even a disease, it is simply a case that the brain of someone with autism works differently from those who do not have autism. This difference affects the way that autistic people communicate and experience the world around them. This is different for everyone as the symptoms lie on a pretty broad spectrum. Some people with autism will be sensitive to light or noise, for example, and simply avoiding or mitigating these situations is enough for them to lead a full and happy life, whilst others need 24/7 care to cope with their symptoms.
The Maori word for autism is “Takiwatanga” which means “in his/her own time and space” which is a reflection of the introversion that autistic people can often display. The internationally recognised 15th annual world autism day takes place on Sunday the 2nd of April 2023. Its aim is to raise global awareness about autism and in support of this we thought we would do our bit to help raise awareness around autism.
Table of contents
What is Autism?
As we have alluded to, autism is a spectrum disorder, often referred to as Autism Spectrum disorder, which is a lifelong developmental condition that people are born with and which is typically diagnosed in early childhood. The condition means that the person’s brain works differently from other peoples, and this can affect a person’s social skills, communication, ability to form relationships and self-regulation. Those who have autism will experience very different symptoms from relatively mild ones which have a minimal affect on their lives to extreme symptoms which require 24/7 care to look after.
Key Autism facts
- More than 1 in a 100 people in the UK have autism and many adults have not been diagnosed
- Autism affects males and females equally
- One in three people with autism also have learning difficulties
- Seven in ten people with autism have challenges with mental health
- Epilepsy is more common in people with autism
Key Symptoms of Autism
There is no one size fits all when it comes to the symptoms as they can be very varied but the key symptoms of autism are:
- delayed or absent speech
- difficulty with listening, concentrating and understanding
- frequent repetition of words and phrases
- taking things literally
- difficulty sensing and interpreting people’s feelings
- difficulty expressing feelings
- over or under sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, smell or light
- rituals or repetitive behaviours
- disliking changes to routine
- difficulty making friends and socialising
Cause of Autism
The cause of Autism is still unknown despite years of research. All that is factually known is that there is a difference in brain shape and structure between those who have autism and those who don’t. One thing that is very clear, though, is that autism is not caused by vaccines or parenting style, that belief is a complete myth.
How to behave around someone with Autism
Many people can sometimes be offended by autistic people and struggle to interact with them. This can be because of the different ways that someone with autism interacts with the world and the challenges that they can have with relationships and communication.
This need not be the case. All that is required is an understanding that someone might have autism and that this is why they are behaving in what “normal society” considers strange. Some tips are:
- Don’t be offended. People with autism tend to speak honestly and directly or might avoid shaking hands, making eye contact or other physical interactions. This is not meant offensively in any way and should not be taken as such.
- Some people with autism do not understand personal boundaries or space and can stand too close or even touch your hair or face. Be calm and simply ask them to stand a little further away or politely ask them to stop touching you. This will not offend them at all and that positive and simple direction is all they will need.
- Don’t expect eye contact from someone with autism. This can be simply because the person is trying to focus on your voice and what you are saying. Eye contact can be a distraction. For others, the intimacy of eye contact is unnerving and not something they are comfortable with. Again, don’t be offended.
- Be patient. People with autism can take longer to put their point across and can focus on small details for a long time. Some struggle to process conversations and need time to reply. It often helps to break complex sentences down and take each part of the conversation step by step.
- Be clear when communicating. Quite often when we communicate, we will use a negative such as “don’t run”. It is much better to say exactly what is wanted, e.g. “please walk”. Also be specific when praising. Don’t say “good job, well done” be very specific in what was good so say things like “I really liked the way that you waited for me when I was talking to my friend”. Don’t be sarcastic, use metaphors or use non-literal slang. People with autism tend to take things very literally so sarcasm will not be seen for what it is.
- Understand the need for routines and schedules. It can be very upsetting for an autistic person if their routine changes. Make sure to adhere rigidly to the routine.
- Ask them how to be a better friend or colleague. Autistic people will know their triggers and will communicate them honestly. Understanding them is perhaps the biggest step anyone can take to supporting someone with autism.
Autism is a condition that, for some reason, is not well understood in society and many people struggle with interacting with people with autism. This really doesn’t need to be the case. At Chris Garland Training we run an introduction to autism awareness course which will help adults understand what autism is and how it can affect a child’s daily life. The course will also give some useful tips on simple day-to-day adaptations that can be made to improve the child’s daily life. For details on this course or for any medical or health and safety training needs that you might have, why not contact us here at Chris Garland Training and we will see how we can help you.