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.
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!!
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:
31 out of 50 participants (62%) recognize stimuli slower or weaker than the average population
22 (44%) were found to be hyper-sensitive but were able to tolerate unpleasant stimuli
24 (48%) actively avoid unbearable stimuli
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.
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.