April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. It is also the start of Autism Awareness Month in Australia. We want to break the stigma around Autism and educate people on the signs of Autism.
What is Autism?
The short version is that Autism is a developmental disorder which affects a person’s behaviour and communication skills.
Autism and Asperger’s used to be considered separate disorders, however in 2013 these were combined and have been named as Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are currently 3 levels to Autism, with level 3 meaning that the person requires substantial amount of support on a day to day basis.
It is important to understand that Autism is a Spectrum Disorder and therefore not everyone who has Autism will be the same or experience the same difficulties. For example, some people with Autism may have limited or no speech, whereas others may have an extensive vocabulary.
What are the most common symptoms or signs of Autism?
This one is difficult to answer, as there are so many. However, the main 2 components of Autism are the social communication issues, and repetitive patterns of behaviours.
Social communication issues can include, but are not limited to:
- difficulty in understanding nonverbal communication, such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions
- experiencing anxiety and stress regarding social interactions
- lack of understanding social cues
- learning disability or difficulty
- avoidance of eye contact
- delay in learning to speak as a child
- flat or monotonous speech
- lack of empathy
- using odd words or phrases
- difficulty understanding sarcasm or metaphorical phrases
Repetitive patterns of behaviour can include, but are not limited to:
- repetitive use of movement, speech or objects. This can often be misdiagnosed as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as it presents with similar symptoms and behaviours
- feeling extreme anxiety regarding changes to their routine or environment
- having a very intense focus on interests or hobbies
Other common symptoms:
- self-abusive behaviours
- sensory processing difficulties, such as being overwhelmed by loud noises, crowded places, bright lights, etc.
What to do if someone you know is showing signs of autism, or if you resonate with what has been said here and are questioning whether you may be autistic
It’s human nature to read the list above and immediately start thinking about how you or someone you know meets a lot of the criteria. I want to assure you that it does not mean you or your loved one are autistic, but it is a possibility.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love are experiencing any of the symptoms and signs above, it is important that you speak with someone who can assist you in deciding whether an Autism assessment is required. This initial conversation can happen with your General Practitioner, Counsellor, or Psychologist, and they will be able to assist you in deciding on the next steps.
Our counsellors at OKAY Counselling would be happy to discuss this with you. If you wish to schedule a time to chat with one of our counsellors, please contact us by filling in a contact form here, calling us on 0478 437 776, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about World Autism Awareness Day here,