‘i Couldn’t Move On With Life’
In Robert’s case it took 18 months “of to-ing and fro-ing, anxious phone calls and plenty of disappointments”.
He finally went for a private assessment, which cost ÃÂ£1,900. “I just wanted it all done. I felt I couldn’t move on with my life.”
He remembers the day clearly – and answered questions for six hours.
“Many of them had me searching for long-forgotten childhood memories – what textures did I like touching? Did I walk downstairs in a funny way?”
The result was a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
“It was nothing more specific than that – there is too much confusion about definitions, so many specialists now tend to refrain from using any,” he says.
But the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder later in life can be an overwhelmingly positive experience, research from Anglia Ruskin University suggests.
Dr Steven Stagg, who interviewed nine people over the age of 50, found it “allowed them to let go of impossible struggles and reframe their self-identity”.
For one person it was “a sort of eureka moment – I realised it wasn’t my fault”. For another it was “the relief of knowing what’s wrong, or what has been wrong”.
But there are often huge regrets too.
For Barney, who was interviewed for the study in Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine, there is the realisation that those closest to him have suffered too.
“If I think back I can’t believe I was a teacher – not a very confident one, not able to communicate with people.”
Autism Only Affects Boys
Male and female brains are wired differently, and the areas affected by autism are those most closely associated with typically male behaviour traits.Without stereotyping anyone, girls brains are generally better at communication, learning social skills, anger management, flexibility and multi-tasking than boys, simply because theyre designed that way. Boys tend to have a harder time learning these skills even without autism thrown into the mix, so when it is, its effects are far more obvious, hence boys are much more commonly diagnosed than girls because the autism is holding their development back to the point where intervention is needed.
Hans Asperger: The Power Of Case Description
Asperger wrote his case histories at a time when Gestalt psychology had become a formidable force of influence in the German-speaking world . It certainly shaped his somewhat holistic view on the proper way of classifying and diagnosing psychiatric disorders. Each human being, Asperger argued, must be understood as an alloy of traits, as a unique blend of capacities and inclinations. To be a good diagnostician, one will have to develop a sensitivity for what he called the Zusammenklang or Gestalt of the childhis voice, face, body language, intonation, gestures, gaze, expression and diction. The true art of clinical observation was being open towards just anything the other person brings into the diagnostic situation. This Gestalt-like orientation precluded the description of syndromes, in terms of lists or assemblies of atomistic traits. Asperger, consequently, did not scale the boys in his case histories along a single polarity, nor did he articulate a single essence, supposedly shared by all the boys.
This was different in the case of Leo Kanner, who did distil an essence of autism with his evocative descriptions of autistic aloneness, insistence on sameness and islets of ability. But in Kanner’s landmark article too, it was the case descriptions themselves that shaped clinical insight.
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Can It Be Taught
Cognitive empathy can be taught to children with autism, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis.
The study used puppets or dolls to role-play situations that elicit empathetic responses and used a token system to reward the expected empathetic response. Over the course of several sessions, subjects learned how to demonstrate empathy using appropriate words and gestures.
Further research shows children with autism can be taught empathy using modeling, prompting, and reinforcement to respond to another person’s emotions with appropriate phrases, tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures.
While these techniques can be used to teach empathetic behavior, they cannot teach empathy at the emotional level. Other therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, have been shown to be effective in improving emotional empathy.
Another treatment that is being explored for helping people with autism develop emotional empathy is equine therapy. A form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between patients and horses, equine therapy involves grooming and riding horses.
Research published in the journal Anthropology and Medicine in 2018 found that horse-assisted therapy appears to help those with autism to open up and become more aware of their own emotions and the emotions of those around them.
Equine therapy was also found to help individuals improve eye contact, body language, and verbal communication.
The Value Of Limits And Leeway
Both the freak savant stereotype and the in a sense we’re all autistic stereotype misrepresent autism, but they do so in opposite directions. The former stereotype draws autism in the realm of the exceptional and the spectacular. The latter stereotype suggests that autism is largely co-extensive with normal, non-pathological behaviour and is perhaps not even a disorder at all. What both stereotypes have in common, though, is that they tend to complicate the efforts to delineate autism as a psychiatric category with more or less specific limits and diagnostic criteria.
This is a layered passage. It is a convincing demonstration of the difficulties a child with Asperger’s will have understanding what is going on in other people’s minds. On the other hand, the reader might wonder whether without such a theory of mind, Tammet would have been able to write about his failure to understand the story as a child, or about his present interpretation of his earlier lack of understanding. This is a wonderful instance of the looping effect: a scientific hypothesis on a central deficit in the mental functioning of a person with Asperger’s explains to Tammet why he did not understand the gist of the story as a child. Tammet’s autobiography clearly demonstrates why Asperger’s syndrome is such an evasive concept. The very fact that limits may shift as a consequence of looping effects characterizes this syndrome as the type of diagnosis with uncertain boundaries.
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Different Names And Terms For Autism
Over the years, different diagnostic labels have been used, such as: autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder , Autism Spectrum Condition , classic autism, Kanner autism, pervasive developmental disorder , high-functioning autism , Asperger syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance . This reflects the different diagnostic manuals and tools used, and the different autism profiles presented by individuals.Because of recent and upcoming changes to the main diagnostic manuals,‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ is now likely to become the most commonly given diagnostic term. Asperger syndrome remains a useful profile for many diagnosticians and professionals.
Bad Parenting Causes Autism
Theres been extensive scientific research into the causes of autism, leading to many theories as to its origins. Years ago, before the condition was properly understood, many people assumed that inadequate parenting skills had something to do with the behavioural difficulties associated with the condition. The latest evidence all points towards autism being a genetically inherited condition whose effects are shaped and influenced by each individual persons life experiences. Its been proven beyond doubt to affect the functions of various parts of the brain, regardless of the way children are parented, leading to the very specific behaviours autistic people exhibit.
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The Firm Whose Staff Are All Autistic
Peter, Evan and Brian work at a small technology firm based by the beach in Santa Monica, testing software and fixing bugs.
On first inspection it seems like any other Los Angeles-based company, with tasteful art on the white walls and calm-inducing diffusers dotted about.
Peter describes the working atmosphere as “quiet, but fun”, and especially likes the fact that there is no pressure to socialise, while Evan says of his employers that they are “very accommodating and understanding”. Brian describes his office as “unique”.
Auticon is one of only a handful of companies that cater exclusively for employees who are on the autistic spectrum.
Formerly known as MindSpark before being acquired by German-based Auticon, the firm was founded by Gray Benoist who, as the father of two autistic sons, saw few options in the workplace that could cater for their needs.
“Both are incredibly capable and smart and deserve an opportunity to be able to express that,” he told the BBC on a recent visit to the company.
“I felt that the gap had to be filled and there was no other way to fill it than by taking action myself.”
He started the firm in 2013 and it has now grown to more than 150 employees. His oldest son, also called Gray, now works in the finance team.
“Our mission is about enabling a group who have been disenfranchised. There are many segments of society that are under-utilised and people on the autistic spectrum are one of them,” he said.
Elements Of Empathy And Sympathy
A lack of expressed sympathy or empathy may not be the result of a lack of emotion in someone who has autism, but rather due to underdeveloped skills. There are several elements involved in showing empathy to others.
To connect with another person in these ways, one must:
- Recognize the other person’s feelings
- Understand the other person’s hopes, dreams, and/or expectations
- Have the emotional experience to relate personally to another’s feelings
- Have the tools to physically and verbally express empathic feelings
People with autism who struggle to show empathy and sympathy may have difficulty with one or more of these.
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Brain Organization Sheds Light On Math Skills And The Roots Of Autism
Recognition of this altered brain organization pattern may not only shed light on improved math performance and the relationship between autism and savantism, but potentially also on autistic brain organization generally. Previously, autistic brain organization was known for being unique. While non-autistic individuals tend to conform to established patterns of brain activity, those with autism have been found to each have different patterns, making analysis of the disorder difficult from the perspective of brain function.
But in identifying this common repurposing of a particular region of the brain, scientists may have found a point at which to begin categorizing and researching autistic brain function in a useful way.
For applied behavior analysts, this finding may simply confirm their previous observations, but also indicates one strong potential avenue for therapy with ASD patients. Many ABAs find themselves working primarily with children, attempting to use behavioral methods to teach common academic skills.
Since math may already be a strength for many of these children, it provides an avenue for teaching ABA techniques like differential reinforcement and self-monitoring. A 2016 meta-study of 13 related studies indicated promising outcomes from the combination of behavioral and mathematical interventions with ASD students.
Having Autism Means Youre Retarded
Believe me, I loathe the word retarded as much as most decent people do nowadays, but theres no guarantee that someone wont say it to you, so its best to be prepared for this kind of comment.The truth is that people on the autism spectrum tend to have either average or above average intelligence levels, and any diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition will have nothing whatsoever to do with how intelligent they are. Autism is simply a difference in the way the neurons in the brain communicate with each other, which leads to complications with social interaction, communication and a need for rigidity in behaviours.
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The Problematic History Of Hans Asperger
Asperger syndrome shares its name with Hans Asperger, a prominent figure in the early research into autism who worked as a paediatrician in Austria in the 20th century, including during the time of the Nazis. An eight-year study into his relationship with the Nazi regime was published in 2018, concluding that he assisted in their euthanasia programme. This provoked a big debate among autistic people and their family members, particularly those who identify with the term Asperger. We are listening closely to the response to this news so we can continue to make sure the language we use to describe autism reflects the preferences of autistic people and their families.
Children Of Smart Fathers Have Higher Risk Of Autism
Kids of men with IQs of 111 or higher were one third more likely to develop the disorder, but the increased risk was “very slight
Children whose fathers are highly intelligent are at a 31 percent higher risk of autism than those whose fathers are of average intelligence, according to unpublished results presented today at the 2017 International Meeting for Autism Research in San Francisco, California.
The work supports observations that date back to the 1940s, when Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger noted in separate reports that the fathers of children with autism tended to be highly intelligent and in several cases worked in technical fields. A 2012 study also showed that children from regions in the Netherlands where high-tech jobs are prevalent are more likely to have autism than those who live in other regions.
In the new study, lead investigator Renee Gardner, assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, set out to investigate whether the historical lore has validity. She and her colleagues matched medical records for 309,803 children whose fathers were conscripted into the Swedish military with their fathers scores on the technical portion of the Swedish intelligence quotient test.
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Autism And Savant Skills
In each of Asperger’s three cases, there was mention of some special talent or ability, a Sonderinteresse . Fritz, Harro and Ernst all did sums in a precocious way, two of them with methods of their own device. With other boys Asperger had seen calendar calculating, memorizing tram schedules and one boy with a gift for mathematics who went on to study mathematics and wrote a dissertation on a calculation error in the work of Newton. Asperger emphasized that whatever there are in terms of special abilities may help social integration. But it is important to note that among the family traits of autism, version Asperger, savantism was not included. Most experts would agree that this is still the case. Even if savantism mostly comes with autism, the majority of cases of autism do not have savantism.
The action thriller is another case in point. The plot hinges on the savantism of Simon, a 9-year-old autistic boy. His almost supernatural pattern-recognition skills allow him to crack even the most sophisticated cryptographic code, including a new two-billion dollar encryption code called Mercury, developed by the American government. This makes Simon a liability. He becomes the boy who knows too much. To protect the lives of thousands of secret agents all over the world, it is decided to have him eliminated.
So our two-billion dollar code is an open book to people of diminished capacity?
Ah, savant!, says his fellow-cryptographer, as if this explains everything.
Autistic People Cant Speak
Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that the level of difficulties autistic people face varies hugely from person to person. One of the main areas affected by autism is the ability to speak, because autistic people find processing and interpreting language very tricky. Expressing what they feel using words can be a real struggle, but autistic people are autistic, not stupid, so many of them will find ways to compensate for this, allowing their spoken language skills to improve hugely over time. In fact, one of the recognised characteristics of autistic people with higher functioning language skills is their enormous vocabulary and their tendency to speak for far longer than is generally acceptable about the things they find interesting.
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The Brain Of An Autistic Person Simply Works Differently
Autistic people can find communicating and engaging with others hard. But a typical autistic person does not exist, and autistic traits may be in all of us.
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A whole range of different conditions belong to the autism spectrum disorder or autism, a life-long neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how people communicate and interact with the world.
One in 160 children has autism but several recent studies have reported rates that are substantially higher, according to the World Health Organization .
ASD is considered a developmental disorder because although it can be diagnosed later in life it begins in early childhood and tends to persist into adolescence and adulthood.
The level of intellectual functioning in autistic people varies hugely, ranging from profound impairment to superior non-verbal cognitive skills. It is estimated that around 50% of people with autism also suffer from an intellectual disability, according to the WHO.
There is a wide range of symptoms in autistic people. Some of the main symptoms include communication problems like delayed speech development, and difficulty in social interactions, such as making friends, maintaining eye contact, reading people’s body language or facial expressions, and expressing how they feel. Repetitive behaviors and strict routines may also be noticed, like repetitive body movements or finding it difficult to adjust even to small changes.
Differences In Social Interaction
People with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty ‘reading’ other people – recognising or understanding others feelings and intentions – and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard for them to navigate the social world. They may:
- appear to be insensitive, even if they don’t intend to be
- seek out time alone when overloaded by other people
- not seek comfort from other people
- appear to behave strangely or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate.
This does not mean that autistic people lack empathy or the ability to feel emotions. In many cases, they can be more empathetic or emotionally aware than non-autistic people. They may have trouble expressing their feelings in a conventional or socially appropriate way.For these reasons, some autistic people may find it hard to form friendships. Some may want to interact with other people and make friends, but may be unsure how to go about it. Some people with Asperger syndrome may appear to be much more socially confident or adept than they really are. Many autistic adults develop more traditional skills by mimicking others around them, or by preparing what they are going to say before an event, as though learning a script. This can be effective, yet exhausting.
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