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What is Autism?

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What is Autism, are you on the spectrum?

There are many people on the Autism spectrum who have gone undiagnosed, this thread is to give awareness of autism.

Many children grow into adulthood unable to relate or understand the social and environmental factors that surround them, making them feel alienated and isolated, many going into depression, sufferring mental health issues, developing Ocd and anxiety related illnesses.

For an adult to understand what autism is and where they are on the spectrum is vital. It is not only essential for the person, but the awareness is vital for carers, parents, close and extended family.

How do people with autism see the world?

People with autism have said that the world, to them, is a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, which can cause them considerable anxiety.

In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family and social life may be harder for them. Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, and some people with autism may wonder why they are 'different'.

http://www.muftisays.com/forums/27-sharing-portal/8528-what-is-autism.html?p=72005#72005

 

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About Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. It is part of the autism spectrum and is sometimes referred to as an autism spectrum disorder, or an ASD. The word 'spectrum' is used because, while all people with autism share three main areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in very different ways. Some are able to live relatively 'everyday' lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support.

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

Difficulty with social communication

Difficulty with social interaction

Difficulty with social imagination.


It can be hard to create awareness of autism as people with the condition do not 'look' disabled: parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood.

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How Autism Effects The Brain

 

Autism is a developmental disorder that can cause problems with social interaction, language skills and physical behaviour. People with autism may also be more sensitive to everyday sensory information.

To people with the condition the world can appear chaotic with no clear boundaries, order or meaning.

The disorder varies from mild to so severe that a person may be almost unable to communicate and need round-the-clock care.

Research has revealed that people with autism have brains that function in a number of different ways to those without the condition.

One recent study suggested that people with autism tend to have far more activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala when looking at other people's faces. The over-stimulation of this part of the brain that deals with new information may explain why people with autism often have difficulty maintaining eye-contact.

Specific nerve cells in the brain, called neurones, also act differently in people with autism. Mirror neurones help us mimic useful behaviour so we can learn from others.

Brain imaging studies suggest that the mirror neurones in people with autism respond in a different way to those without the disorder.

This could partly explain what many behavioural studies have already shown - that children with autism can find it difficult to copy or learn simple behaviours from others. Scientists have suggested with social interaction could have a knock-on effect on language learning.

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Difficulty with social communication

For people with autistic spectrum disorders, 'body language' can appear just as foreign as if people were speaking ancient Greek.

People with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. They can find it difficult to use or understand:

facial expressions or tone of voice jokes and sarcasm
common phrases and sayings; an example might be the phrase 'It's cool', which people often say when they think that something is good, but strictly speaking, means that it's a bit cold.


Some people with autism may not speak, or have fairly limited speech. They will usually understand what other people say to them, but prefer to use alternative means of communication themselves, such as sign language or visual symbols.

Others will have good language skills, but they may still find it hard to understand the give-and-take nature of conversations, perhaps repeating what the other person has just said (this is known as echolalia) or talking at length about their own interests.

It helps if other people speak in a clear, consistent way and give people with autism time to process what has been said to them.

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Difficulty with social interaction

Socialising doesn't come naturally - we have to learn it.

People with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people's emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

They may:

- Not understand the unwritten social rules which most of us pick up without thinking: they may stand too close to another person for example, or start an inappropriate subject of conversation

- Appear to be insensitive because they have not recognised how someone else is feeling

- Prefer to spend time alone rather than seeking out the company of other people

- Not seek comfort from other people
appear to behave 'strangely' or inappropriately, as it is not always easy for them to express feelings, emotions or needs.

Difficulties with social interaction can mean that people with autism find it hard to form friendships: some may want to interact with other people and make friends, but may be unsure how to go about this.

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World Autism Awareness Day:

Just because a person has a different way of communicating, it does not mean that they are impaired

 

By Dr Luke Beardon, a senior lecturer in autism at Sheffield Hallam University's Autism Centre

The myriad of difficulties faced by autistic people are not simply as a result of autism, but are often due to the lack of understanding among others
Wednesday 02 April 2014

Autism is possibly one of the most misunderstood cognitive states in modern day society. Over the years the representation (or mis-representation) of individuals within the film industry and within the media has perpetuated many myths associated with the autism population. Films such as Rain Man have certainly raised the awareness of autism, in as much as most people within society will have heard of autism and many will have an opinion as to what it means. Sadly, the reality is that very few have a good understanding of what being autistic actually means to the individual and their families.

Autism is still regarded very much within a medical model - diagnostic criteria and texts related to autism are rife with negative terminology such as 'disorder' and 'impairment'. Rarely do we see a celebration of the fascinating way in which the autistic mind processes information, the abilities that are often found within the autistic population, the value that the autistic person can bring to society. Rarely do we see a social model applied to the autism community.

Rather than assuming that an autistic way of thinking causes problems and is somehow inferior, the social model would urge us to recognise that the myriad of difficulties faced by autistic people are not simply as a result of autism, but are often a result of the lack of understanding among the majority of the rest of the population. That the barriers faced on a daily basis by the individual are not insurmountable, and it is the duty of all involved to circumnavigate those issues with appropriate adjustments, support and understanding in order for the individual to reach their potential.

We are led to believe that autistic people are impaired in their functioning - this is simply not true. Just because a person has a different social skill set, or a different way of communicating to the majority, does not automatically mean that they are impaired. I would argue that autistic people have their own, valid, skill set and that if the Predominant Neurotype (i.e. the non-autistic population) were to make the effort to engage with autistic people with an understanding of that skill set then the imbalanced view of autism may begin to change.

We live in a world that loves to categorise and pigeon-hole. It is impossible (and morally reprehensible) to assume that having an identification of autism means anything other than that the person is autistic. Being autistic does not automatically mean that the person is any less capable as a person than anyone else - in some cases, quite the opposite is true. Nor does it mean that any one autistic person could or should be compared to anyone else.

Each individual with autism is exactly that - an individual. She or he will have their own unique skills profile, strengths, weaknesses, wishes and dreams. It is time that society recognises the potential value of being autistic, and the necessity of learning to understand each individual as a person in their own right.

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I was diagnosed with autism as an adult – it's not just children who are affected
 

Johnny Dean

Adult autism is little understood and often goes undiagnosed. On World Autism Awareness Day the government's new strategy needs to tackle this.

In 2009, MP Cheryl Gillan put forward a bill in parliament. The idea behind it was to ensure more support was available for adults with autistic conditions. Up to this point, children and their families were being given help, but children grow up. Even autistic children. What then?

That same year the Autism Act became a reality, and I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. I was 38 years old. As a child of the 70s, autism was practically unheard of. Any withdrawn or "difficult" behaviour on my part was generally seen as naughtiness. My lack of people skills was put down to me being antisocial, mean, or aloof.

There must be a multitude of adults out there who have some form of autism but remain undiagnosed. Confused, isolated and quite often suicidal. I know, because for much of my life that is how I felt.

Since the mid-90s, awareness of autistic conditions such as Asperger's syndrome, high-functioning autism and pervasive developmental disorder has grown, but not nearly enough to say they are fully understood. It has been disturbing for me, since being diagnosed, to discover how little people know.

Adults seeking diagnosis are often faced with a struggle. Not being taken seriously seems to be a common occurrence. I experienced more than just a few quizzical looks and furrowed brows when I asked to be assessed. Many people simply give up at this point. I was even asked outright, by a consultant psychologist, why I was seeking diagnosis when I was an adult. Apparently, this happens a lot.

It didn't help that much of the assessment process seemed designed specifically for children. This became even more exasperating when my mother's faded memories of my childhood were bought into the mix, creating a very confused picture. The team assessing me were concentrating solely on my childhood, the very distant past, rather than me in the here and now. Surely there is a better way to accommodate adults?

It took well over a year to get diagnosed, partly because only one place in the southeast had the facilities to do it. But I am glad I persevered. It means that my GP is aware of my condition. It meant I was able to get cognitive behavioural therapy to cope with the challenges I face every day. It has enabled me to understand who I am. But more than anything, diagnosis was a massive relief.

As far as support goes, where I live in south London, things are better compared with five years ago when I was first diagnosed. But at the same time I have never been contacted or approached by any of the services in my area – I had to make myself known. This can be a problem when it comes to people with autism. If you leave it to us, it might not happen.

Since 2009, most local authorities have set up schemes for adults seeking a formal diagnosis. Which is fine, but then what? Will a freshly diagnosed adult get the support they need? And what about autistic children who have grown up? Has the Autism Act done anything to improve these people's lives?

Here are some depressing statistics. Of all adults with autism, 70% feel they are not receiving the help they need; 36% said they need help to wash and dress, but only 7% get this support from social services; and 53% say they want help to find work, but only 10% get the support to do so.

Last year the National Autistic Society started a campaign, Push for Action, to improve support for adults with autism. In October, I joined other campaigners in delivering a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding more action from the government, including money for new services, better training for staff such as GPs and care assessors, and more to be done to raise public awareness of autism.

Things are slowly getting better, especially with regard to awareness, but solid support is still lacking. I hope that the government's revised autism strategy, which will be published today – World Autism Awareness Day – will tackle this and actually improve the lives of adults with autistic conditions as well as those of their families.

In this day and age, I hate to think that anybody else would have to go through the time-consuming and frustrating process that I experienced. Autism is a real and serious condition, and adults have it too.

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Masha'Allah, jazakAllah khayran for sharing this here. Insha'Allah we can prepare a compilation of resources regarding the spectrum, including ADHD (an area of interest for me).

 

Following other threads under health, perhaps sister Taalibah would like to join the effort here and work on such a project about the spectrum as a whole?

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Sensory Sensitivities

Many people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty processing everyday sensory information such as sounds, sights and smells. This is usually called having sensory integration difficulties, or sensory sensitivity. It can have a profound effect on a person's life.

Here, we look at:

How our senses work

Our central nervous system (brain) processes all the sensory information we receive and helps us to organise, prioritise and understand the information. We then respond through thoughts, feelings, motor responses (behaviour) or a combination of these.

We have receptors all over our bodies that pick up sensory information, or 'stimuli'. Our hands and feet contain the most receptors. Most of the time, we process sensory information automatically, without needing to think about it much.

People with sensory integration difficulties - including many people with an ASD - have difficulty processing everyday sensory information.

People who struggle to deal with all this information are likely to become stressed or anxious, and possibly feel physical pain. This can result in challenging behaviour.

If I get sensory overload then I just shut down; you get what's known as fragmentation...it's weird, like being tuned into 40 TV channels.

Our seven senses

We have seven senses: 

sight
sound
touch
taste
smell
balance ('vestibular')
body awareness ('proprioception').

People with an ASD can be over- or under-sensitive in any or all of these areas. You may hear this referred to as being 'hypersensitive' or 'hyposensitive'.

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Sensory Sensitivities

Sound

This is the most commonly recognised form of sensory impairment. Hearing impairments can affect someone's ability to communicate and possibly also their balance. People with an ASD may experience the following differences.

Hypo

May only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or none at all.
May not acknowledge particular sounds.
Might enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects.

Hyper

Noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled.
Particularly sensitive to sound and can, for example hear conversations in the distance.
Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, which often leads to difficulties concentrating.
Example...Do you hear noise in your head? It pounds and screeches. Like a train rumbling through your ears. Powell, J. (in Gillingham, G. 1995), page 41

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Autism - Balance

 

Balance (vestibular)

Situated in the inner ear, our vestibular system helps us maintain our balance and posture, and understand where and how fast our bodies are moving. People with an ASD may experience the following differences.

Hypo

A need to rock, swing or spin to get some sensory input.

Hyper

Difficulties with activities like sport, where we need to control our movements. 

Difficulties stopping quickly or during an activity.

Car sickness.

Difficulties with activities where the head is not upright or feet are off the ground.

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