Understanding Autism, September 2017
The Ministry of Equality facilitated several lectures across the week of 18th September; these were presented by Linda Woodcock, Director of AT-Autism and an Autism and Families Consultant.
The lectures presented a thorough and well described insight into the lives of those with autism, and the need for us as a society to adapt to their needs. Autism was discussed as a developmental disorder, seen on a spectrum of ability that leads to altered brain function (often overlapping with learning disabilities). It is said to affect more males than females, and affect around 91 people in every 10,000. Various development signs indicate a potential autism diagnosis, including:
- lack of socio-emotional reciprocity
- delay in, or a total lack of, the development of spoken language
- restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour
- compulsive adherence to specific routines and/or rituals
- failure to initiate or sustain conversation
- failure to adequately use eye-to-eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures
- failure to develop peer relationships
- lack of varied spontaneous “make-believe” play (when young)
Good discussions were held, particularly amongst parents; Linda discussed the grieving process of accepting a person as they are and when that doesn’t match up with the initial hopes you can hold for your children. Also, the fact that people with autism display no physical signs of disability doesn’t make their person-centred needs any less important.
Various activities were conducted, including a paragraph review that demonstrates how complex communication is, and how a person with autism may struggle at various stages within the communication process (receiving information, processing it, anticipating what the other person wants, replying appropriately, and waiting for the response):
A video displaying how a person with autism can suffer from sensory overload was also shown:
Despite this lecture focusing predominantly on understanding how the brain perceives information differently in autism, some advice was given. For people who suffer greatly from sensory overload, Linda suggests seeking a sensory assessment from an Occupational Therapist [this can be organised through a G.P. appointment and referral]. Linda also recommended the use of visual support to help counteract lacking social imagination and understanding; Jessica Kingsley Publishers provide books aimed at people with autism, and Carol Gray creates visual comics which have also seen to be useful in practice.
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