The Autistic Spectrum
People with autism will often have an accompanying learning disability, but people with High Functioning Autism and Asperger syndrome will generally have an above average intelligence.
People with High Functioning Autism have similar traits to those with Asperger Syndrome, although people with Asperger Syndrome generally have an awareness of their disability and that they are 'different' from others, coupled with a desire to 'be like everyone else' i.e. have friends, a girl/boyfriend or a job - this awareness and desire can often cause problems for the individual.
Kanner's 'Classic' Autism
Using the continuum model, Kanner's Autism is most often used to define individuals on the autistic spectrum with a higher degree of Learning Disability.
Kanner's definition of Autism was first published in 1943 as:
- An inability to relate to people and to situations from early life
- A failure to use language for communication with other
- An anxiously obsessive desire to maintain samenes
- A fascination for objects, or parts of objects, which are handled with skill in fine motor movement
- Good cognitive potential
People with Kanner's Autism can be described as being severely affected by the Triad of Impairments, which can have a dramatic and detrimental effect to their quality of life. See Triad of Impairments for more information.
Individuals on the autistic spectrum with average to high intellectual functioning, can be described as having Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism. Hans Asperger first published his definition of the Syndrome that bears his name, in 1945.
Hans Asperger identified:
- Social impairment - extreme egocentricity
- Speech and language peculiarities
- Repetitive routines
- Motor clumsiness
- Narrow interests
- Non-verbal communication problems
Additional areas of difficulty often present in autistic spectrum disorder:
- Repetitive and ritualistic activities
- Inflexible routines
- Resistance to change
- Poor ability to manage anger and frustration
- Problems with sleeping, feeding and toileting
- Additional fears and phobias
- Severe anxiety
- Problems in gender identity
- Inappropriate expression of sexual feelings
- Anti-social behaviour
- Interpersonal violence
- Finding appropriate help and understanding
- Frustration at own difficulties in explaining to others why certain situations create insoluble problems
- Inflexibility in application of social rules, particularly where these apply to themselves
- Awareness of the social relationships normal to others and difficulty in achieving the same relationships
- Wanting to change but being unable to do so
- Insufficient understanding of their own condition
- Difficulty in coping with social demands and situations
- Knowing they are different
- Inability to be tactful - telling the literal truth all the time can make someone very unpopular
- Being very vulnerable to teasing by those who take advantage of their 'oddness' or literal interpretation of language and rules the challenges posed by ASD.
People with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism often have a very complex presentation: getting a diagnosis can have many positive outcomes
- A diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder makes it clear that 'odd' behaviour is the result of a pervasive developmental disorder, not mental illness or personality disorder
- Parental guilt may be relieved, enabling them to concentrate on seeking help, rather than wondering what went wrong
- Parents and carers have a reference group available for mutual support
- Placements can be evaluated in regards to how they can meet the characteristic needs of the condition, as uniquely expressed in each individual
- Communication can be augmented or tailored to most effectively overcome individual problems in information processing
- The individual can be given emotional support and therapy appropriate to the characteristic needs of the condition and their idiosyncrasies
- Behavioural management and risk assessment can be designed to meet the characteristic problems and needs of the condition
- Making the connections between the behaviours we observe and the cause of those behaviours, creates understanding
- Understanding the cause of the behaviour gives us the opportunity to: predict, plan for, promote the positive and prevent the negative
- It enables an individual to gain insight into their difficulties and find ways to manage them more effectively
- Expectations can be realistically structured and practical plans made for the future
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