Autism is a complex neurological disorder that can cause social, emotional, and communication difficulties. The condition is becoming more widely understood in the UK and adaptions are being made to make sure those with Autism are supported and considered however there is still a lot more to learn. Autism is a spectrum disorder and many of its symptoms can range in severity. It affects individuals in different ways, from the way they think and behave to how they interact with their environment and other people. For those living with autism, everyday life can be especially challenging, so it’s important to understand the unique ways it can impact everyday life.
1. Behavioural Changes Autism is a developmental disorder with many unique symptoms and behaviours. One of the most common and impactful behaviours seen in individuals with autism is behavioural change. Those with autism can experience changes in their behaviour, from an increase in communication ability to a decrease in the ability to express emotion effectively. They may also develop certain non-verbal cues such as hand-flapping and rocking, or exhibit more severe behaviours such as self-injury and aggression. Such behaviours can be difficult to manage, especially for those with limited resources or experience in dealing with them. It's important to understand that Autism is not a disorder or disease and the associated behaviour is not personal or threatening. It is important to seek out the support of health professionals if behavioural changes are observed, to ensure that the individual can access the assistance they need to manage their behaviour. Autism is not always diagnosed or recognised in childhood, it's a condition which is cared for through into adulthood and therefore it should not be "expected" that a child will "grow out" of their behaviour, but simply manage it differently through age.
2. Sense of Socialization Autistic individuals often have difficulty with socialization due to their challenges in understanding or reading nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. This can lead to unintentional misunderstandings and difficulty in interpreting social situations. It is essential to foster an understanding of nonverbal cues, as well as problem-solving and communication strategies in a manner that the individual is comfortable with and at a gradual pace. Sensory cues such as bright lights, crowded spaces and loud noises can be triggering, so it's important to be sensitive to this and work together to find an atmosphere which encourages socialisation.
3. Communication Difficulties Autistic communication difficulties can make it hard for individuals to establish relationships or connect with their peers. Those on the autism spectrum often find it difficult to make eye contact, read facial expressions, or understand non-verbal cues. Body language is considered to be 55% of all communication; Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only. We don't often take the time to understand how much of our communication is done through our gestures and when this component is misunderstood or overlooked completely, how difficult it must be to gather the correct insight into someone's communication with you. In addition, they may struggle with understanding and expressing their own emotions, as well as understanding the emotions of others. This can further inhibit their communication and social relationships. To help address these difficulties, it is important to recognize the specific language and communication patterns of an individual with autism and to create opportunities to practice social communication. With the right guidance and support, individuals on the autism spectrum can cultivate strong, meaningful, lifelong relationships.
4. Sensory Processing Difficulties Sensory processing difficulties in autism can vary widely from person to person. For some, sensory sensitivities can make it difficult to be around loud noises or handle certain textures. For others, it can make it difficult to control movement or focus on tasks. Because of such a wide range of sensory processing difficulties, individuals with autism need access to support that meets their unique needs. This might mean providing headphones to reduce noise levels in school or making sure that certain foods are available. Creating a comfortable area for isolating can be required and some public attractions and large shopping centres are adapting to make sure all their autistic customers feel safe and happy in their environments. Working with occupational therapists to create the right balance of sensory input throughout the day to help individuals with autism stay focused can be a productive step or keeping a journal of reactions and behaviours when faced with certain stimuli can make it easier to adapt and daily life and create more positive energy.
5. Planning and Execution Difficulties Autistic planning and execution difficulties can be daunting and challenging to overcome. The disorder affects individuals’ abilities to coordinate, organize, and plan ahead, making tasks that may seem mundane, feel like obstacles. There are a few strategies that autistic individuals can use to help them plan and execute tasks effectively. The first is to break down complex tasks into smaller, more achievable goals, which will seem more digestible and easier to accomplish; it can help provide a sense of structure, which helps to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by large tasks. Second, planning ahead and setting deadlines for yourself helps to ensure that tasks get done in a timely manner. Finally, using visual aids such as charts and calendars can help to keep track of tasks and stay organized. Like with anything, with the right strategies in place, autistic individuals can still be just as capable of achieving their goals as anyone else.
Living with autism can be very challenging and it is important to understand the unique ways it can affect daily life, from communication and socialization difficulties to behavioural changes. With proper guidance and support, those with autism can live fulfilling lives with meaningful relationships and those around them can be supportive and understanding of their difficulties with respect and patience.
If you or someone you know is living with autism, remember that there are resources available to help. A local GP, teacher or charity youth worker can provide more insight into the condition and put you in contact with further assistance in accordance with your personal circumstances.
You can read more about how Discovery Journal is helping with the anxiety of those on the Autistic Spectrum by referring to our website's "How it works" page or reading our blog about our ASC Journal here.