Posted in Psych Bites, Psychology

Psych Bites: Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Recently I had an amazing opportunity to do a weeks work placement in a disability school where my sister used to attend. I was put in the pathways department and more specifically I was put in a seperate little bungalow of 9 students, 2 teachers and 3 teaching assistants where 8 of the students were diagnosed on the scale of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I really enjoyed my placement and was given a mass amount of folders and information by one of the teachers, I was shocked by exactly how different the children were to what I was expecting, so I thought that this would be a good topic for psych bites, to inform you all of what I have learnt on the placement and also how amazing people with this disorder really are.
If you have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon or watched Rain Man you probably have an idea in your head as to what exactly someone with Autism is like, you may believe that most people with Autism have insane mathematical ability, are unable to make eye contact and do not like to be touched. I’m going to go through these symptoms and whether or not there is any truth to them as well as telling you an important part of Autism which is often ignored.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a Developmental disorder that typically occurs during early childhood. There are no cures for this disorder, there are some management tactics as well as some theories that parents may turn to as they believe they might help, For example there has been some articles/books that have suggested diet may be a cause of Autism and some parents may stop their children from having dairy or gluten. Whilst there is no scientific proof of this it can be a comfort to some parents.
One of the most common misconceptions about people with Autism is that they all have some amazing ability that goes way beyond what an average person is able to do. This can sometimes be the case, but these people are called Savants. An example of this is Stephen Wiltshire (Click here for a Documentary on him and his life) who can draw incredibly detailed drawings from memory, for instance he was taken in a helicopter ride over New York City and was able to draw this from memory.

This is not however, the case for every child who is on the Autistic Spectrum. There can be people who are on this spectrum that aren’t as effected in day to day life as with some other people. There are some people who may just find social situations uncomfortable and be unable to process emotion or understand it in ways others can, but may not be as severe as some other people on the Autistic Spectrum.

People with Autism often struggle with communication, the children I met some were using sign language rather than speaking, there was also one child who would whisper when they spoke and some which just didn’t communicate at all. On the other end though, there were children which were able to talk and communicate but it was clearly difficult for them, they would not make eye contact or in the case of one child, would constantly ask questions and may even repeat the question even if you’ve already answered, this was a form of defense mechanism as the anxiety of being spoken to and not wanting to be asked questions made the child constantly ask questions themselves.

A huge part of Autistic Spectrum Disorder is the senses. There are children which may have senses

which are hypersensitive (over sensitive) or hyposensitive (under sensitive) an example is this is having hypersensitive hearing which may mean loud noises are painful. Some children with this disorder need to stimulate their senses often, whilst I was on my placement the teacher had what was called “sensory breaks” where the children were able to stimulate their senses, for example one child would sort of make themselves slip off of a frame (without hurting themselves) because they liked the feeling of slipping and slippery surfaces. In fact you may be shocked to hear that there are some people with the disorder that may feel pain when getting their hair cut!

Of course there is also the feature of being unable to recognise facial expressions and body language which also makes it difficult to communicate, think about it, how often do you look at someones face or body for clues about what they’re really trying to say? How often does it happen that someone says nothing at all but you can tell if they are angry or annoyed at you? Children with Autistic Spectrum disorder find this difficult.

Though it is incredibly hard to categorise and write down that these are the symptoms for Autistic Spectrum Disorder because each person is different with the disorder just like everyone is different. The point is, I think that we should try and understand people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and that more places should accommodate them.

I wrote this for Autism awareness day but am slightly late with finishing it, apologies. But I do think this is an important issue and that more people should be aware of this disorder and what it involves, I hope my post helped you understand a little better.

2 thoughts on “Psych Bites: Autistic Spectrum Disorder

  1. This was an awesome post, Becky, very informational to read! I think I knew most of it already, but raising awareness is always a good thing. And most things I've picked up from fiction reads, so you never know how accurate it is. I'm glad you're having such a good time with your study! 🙂


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