Tag Archives: conditions

Towards an improved understanding and acceptance of Autism

Today’s Daily Prompt: What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?


I want my blog to add to the growing sources of information about Autism. A lot of people with Autism are misunderstood since much of the popular beliefs about the condition is influenced by the media and out-dated studies. While a lot of these sources are correct and positive, they often fail to account for the differences between individuals with Autism.

Having worked with, taught and befriended people with Autism, I have become aware that Autism manifests differently. Each individual with Autism has his/ her own set of strengths and areas of needs that are unique to them. This reality tends to confuse people with little or no experience of Autism- ‘how can they have the same diagnosis but be completely different from each other?’ To be honest, I don’t know why this is the case. Nevertheless, what I found useful was to get to know each individual and respond to their needs and strengths accordingly.

By sharing my opinions, what I have read, listened to or watched, maybe I could increase people’s awareness, understanding and acceptance of Autism.


The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism

The Reason I Jump

I have just bought this book from Waterstones today.The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism is a book written by Japanese writer Naoki Higashida, who himself has been diagnosed with Autism. Naoki wrote this book in 2005 when he was 13, and was only published last year. I have read the reviews which seem to be mixed. On the one hand, it is being praised as it shows the positive side of having Autism and the book is in-line with parents’ hopes for their children who are on the Autism Spectrum. However, some are critical as they argue that Naoki does not speak for all of those who have Autism.

I have not yet read it, but I am very excited to start. No need to ask me what my weekend plans will be!!

Atypical Reactions to Stimuli Found in Mothers of Children With Autism

Close to 90% of individuals in the Autism Spectrum have atypical responses and obsessions/ fixations with sensory stimuli. For example, some may enjoy looking at bright lights while some may actively avoid the sound of people scratching their skin. Previous studies have observed these patterns of responses  in neurotypical siblings of individuals with Autism, but not in their parents- until recently.

In a research published in Molecular Autism on 3 April 2014, Uljarevic et al. set out to investigate whether parents (specifically, the mothers) of children and adolescents in the Autism Spectrum have unusual reactions to sensory stimuli. The researchers asked fifty mothers to complete the Adolescent and Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) which is a measure of people’s hypo-sensitivity, hyper-sensitivity, sensation-seeking and sensory-avoiding tendencies.

The study’s findings are as follows:

  1. 31 out of 50 participants (62%) recognize stimuli slower or weaker than the average population
  2. 22 (44%) were found to be hyper-sensitive but were able to tolerate unpleasant stimuli
  3. 24 (48%) actively avoid unbearable stimuli
  4. Only 2% of the mothers scored within the ‘average-range‘, i.e. showed ‘normal’ responses to stimuli

Treat these findings with caution

As with every scientific finding, it is important not to get carried away with these findings. They need to be interpreted with caution. Despite having similar patterns of responses to their children with Autism, the participants’ atypical sensory reactions could be due to anxiety. In addition, since this is the first study to investigate the subject in this population with such a small sample size (very few participants), more studies need to be conducted to fully support the findings. Lastly, genetic studies are needed to investigate whether or not genes play a role in atypical sensory reactions in Autism.

Autism Hangout: Autism and Friendship

On the latest episode of the Autism Hangout, I, along with other panel members, discussed the intricacies of initiating, forming and maintaining friendships in individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). We explored how people with ASC communicate with and relate to their friends. We also gathered insights from people with the condition on how they form and maintain friendships. We gave advice for individuals with Autism on what to do and where to go if they have any questions about friendships, other people and general social encounters.


The Autism Show left me with mixed emotions

The Autism Show


I have attended my first Autism Show in Manchester yesterday. I have been looking forward to this event because of the quality of the speakers and also because it presented a chance for me to meet fellow professionals, parents and individuals with Autism. While I have enjoyed learning about the current research findings (courtesy of talks delivered by Prof. Neil Humphrey and the folks from Research Autism) and have met lovely people including Kevin Healey- a leading campaigner for Autism Anti-Bullying, the event left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I did not enjoy the whole experience.


I found the layout of the venue (EventCity, Manchester) too confusing. The exhibition booths are laid-out like a university open-day convention, where people came and went in every direction. The sound levels were too high as exhibitors and speakers competed with each other for the visitors’ attention. There was no place for visitors to relax quietly, apart from the toilets.

Understandably, parents of children with Autims were extremely annoyed. Those who I have spoken too have commented that the place was ‘not Autism-friendly at all’. These parents have the right to complain, considering that the even was about Autism. One would hope that the organisers would have made more effort to consider individuals with Autism, particularly those with sensory sensitivities.


The Autism Theatre, Hubs 1 & 2, where various talks have taken place were not closed off. This meant that the noise coming from the rest of the venue can be heard and that the speakers have to speak louder in order to compete with the background noise. As a result, most of the audience found it very difficult to maintain their focus on the speakers.

Kevin Healey, one of the key speakers who also has Asperger’s Syndrome, have told me that he struggled to block out the noise coming from outside the Autism Theatre whilst he was speaking. However, despite the incredible challenge of blocking out these stimuli, Kevin delivered one of the most inspiring talks that I have ever listened to.


Despite the great wealth of information, I left the venue two and a half hours early with a headache. I do not have a diagnosis of Autism or any sensory difficulties, but I still found the event very strenuous. I can only sympathise for those with Autism. Needless to say, if the organisers do not make the necessary adjustments next year, I would not be coming.

Kevin Healey’s Anti-Bullying Campaign poster. Please share


Please print and share this picture of Kevin Healey’s anti-bullying campaign. Kevin will be speaking at The Autism Show in Manchester’s EventCity tomorrow, 29 June. Please come along to hear his, and others’ talks about the different aspects of Autism and the current research findings about the condition.

For discounted tickets, visit www.autismshow.co.uk

How Can You Let Him Behave Like That? Understanding Children’s Behaviours



Working with children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN), although extremely rewarding, is never easy, especially when the children in your care are misbehaving. Situations where we are dealing with children who are not behaving as society feels like they should is worsened by the untrained eyes of on-lookers who quickly assume that the child you are dealing with is naughty and that you are not doing your job right. Some would offer unsolicited advice and say “You know, you should not allow him to behave like that” or “Why are you letting him get away with saying/doing that? You should rule with an iron fist”.

While these unsolicited words are hurtful, it reflects much of society’s view on children’s behaviour. Those with no experience of dealing with children with complex needs believe that when children misbehave, they are being naughty. They know what they are doing and they know it is wrong. They believe that punishing children and shouting at them will stop them from behaving the way they do and in turn, start behaving ‘normally’.

As most parents and teachers of kids with SEN would agree, ruling with an iron fist, especially when rules and consequences are not thoroughly explained, do not always work. Individual children have different needs and emotional competencies. Not all of them understand the social rules and not all of them understand the consequences of their behaviours. More importantly, a lot of them do not possess the ability to recognise, regulate and control their emotions. As a result of this difference, they behave in a way that most of society deem inappropriate. A specific example is that of a child with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) who kicked his female classmate on her back just because she wore a different headband.

My experience with working with children with SEN has made me aware that every behaviour has a reason. Crucially, the young people that I have worked with made me realise that a lot of their ‘bad’ behaviours are results of uncontrollable reactions to unwanted stimuli. Aside from neurological differences, such as that of people with Autism, children may also be experiencing tensions at home that they are unable to deal with, which could result ro bad behaviour. Some of these children would act violently just to get your attention. They crave attention at school becaude they do not get it ahome, but do it in the wrong way. Most of the time, this will lead to them being labelled as ‘bad children’, which would lead to even more terrible behaviours.

It is extremely useful to keep in mind that there is always a reason for bad behaviour, and shouting and punishment are not always the answer. It upsets me when I see children receive inappropriate punishments given to them by people who should know better. Dealing with children this way is counterintuitive and will lead to unwanted consequences.

So what can be done?

Children who are misbehaving should always be reprimanded. They should be told that what they are doing is wrong, especially when they pose physical, emotional and psychological harm to themselves and others. However, disciplinary actions should not stop there. Children should be told why their actions are inappropriate, however simple the reason could be. As mentioned above, children, particularly those with SEN, are not always aware of the social rules and we need to teach them these rules explicitly, and keep reinforcing them until their knowledge and understanding is secure.

We should also give the children the chance to explain themselves. We need to ask them why they did/say what they did. Triggers are not always as obvious as we want them to be. Some children lash out because they were praised out loud, while some could say inappropriate and rude words because you did not say ‘well done’. People with mental conditions such as Autism may ‘misbehave’ because their routines are changed or the sensory stimuli around them is much more than they could deal with (such as in social areas like the park). We need to allow them to express these thoughts without fearing that we would shout at them.

Faulty or immature reasoning need to be corrected. We also need to teach them the appropriate way to recognise and deal with their emotions. Saying things like “I can see you are very angry with Paul because he took your train…” could help them label their emotions. Explicitly teaching them some calming strategies, such as counting to 10 or breathing slowly, could help them regulate their emotions better.

When individuals with ASD or ADHD experience meltdowns, we need to give them the chance to calm down, before speaking to them. Such meltdowns could consist of shouting, hitting or breaking furnitures. Individuals should be placed in a safe environment, away from other people (such as a quiet, sensory room). If this is not possible, other children and unsafe objects should be removed from the setting.

Parental involvement should also be sought. Home life can be difficult and communication between parents and teachers/ youth workers can help understand the child better. A more complete understanding of the child will most likely result in a better ways of improving his/ her behaviour.

The most important ingredient in all of this is an open mind. We should try to keep an objective view and not get ‘caught up’ in the moment and react in a way that is detrimental to the child. Dealing with ‘inappropriate’ behaviour also consists of learning on the job. Strategies that have worked in the previous 100 outbursts may not work with outburst number 101. We need to be flexible and adapt to the situation.