What is Autism?
The term 'autism' will be used here to refer to all conditions on the Autistic Spectrum, including Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome is an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) diagnosed when a person meets the criteria for an autism diagnosis, had no significant language delay as a child and has an average or above average IQ.
Autism is a neurological difference that affects social interaction and communication; it has implications for how individuals participate in everyday life. Autism is the result of experiencing the world differently, i.e. being either hyper- or hypo-sensitive in any or all of the 5 senses, or having difficulty interpreting and integrating sensory stimuli. This makes it difficult:
to cope with certain sensory stimuli or to react appropriately
to communicate to others how they feel and what they need
to understand how other people experience the world
to adjust to changes in routine or in the environment, including. unexpected events
Autism is a life-long condition and affects approximately 1% of the population ( Terry Brugha 2009)
What causes Autism?
Research is ongoing and many believe that a single cause is unlikely. Some neuro-psychologists theorise that the cause for Autism lies in a difference of connections within and between certain areas of the brain. There is a genetic component, which means that more than one person in a family may have an Autism Spectrum Condition.
How does Autism affect people?
Some autistic people may not be able to acquire speech, or their verbal communication may remain very basic. They may only function well in a highly structured environment with clear routines, predictable and tolerable sensory stimulation and access to communication strategies that suit them as individuals. They may always need help with personal care and general life skills.
People of average or higher intellectual ability and Autism usually acquire good verbal communication skills, but tend to take words and phrases literally, prefer to talk about facts rather than feelings, go on about their favourite subject, may sound 'like a book' and may struggle with conversational rules. They also tend to find it difficult to understand others and take in their point of view and their feelings.
Many Autistic people experience pain and anxiety from sensory stimuli, which would normally be considered unnoticeable, tolerable or even enjoyable. This includes certain auditory frequencies or loud sounds in general, bright or flickering lights, particular smells and tastes, touch, temperature and movements. They might therefore avoid busy places (or become greatly distressed in them), cover their ears or turn their view inwards or resort to strategies like pacing, rocking, humming or stroking/kneading a particular texture in order to shut out the painful stimuli or in order to integrate them better.
Most Autistic people notice details rather than the whole picture and have difficulty sifting the important from the unimportant. This leads to a need for sameness and predictability and resistance to change. It can also lead to great expertise in certain areas or a chosen subject and the ability to stick with one activity for a long time. Single-mindedness, attention to detail and a lack of social convention have lead many autistic people in the past and present to contribute great insight and inventions in many areas of science and the arts.
ARGH is an organisation which will:
-Inform service providers about what autistic people really experience.
-Campaign for better services for autistic people in the highlands.
-Challenge stigma and discrimination through education about autistic strengths.