How Is Autism In Women Treated
While theres no cure for autism, medications can help to manage certain related symptoms or disorders that may co-occur.
But medication is only one aspect of autism support. There are many types of physical, occupational, and talk therapies that can help you better interact with the world around you and manage your symptoms.
What Causes Autism In Women
Experts arent sure what causes autism. Given the wide range of symptoms and severity, autism is likely caused by several factors, including genetics and environmental factors.
While theres no evidence that the exact cause of autism is different between the sexes, some experts suggest that boys are at a higher chance of developing it.
For example, investigators believe that girls might be born with genetic protective factors that reduce their chance of autism.
Theres also an emerging theory called the extreme male brain theory. Its based on the idea that fetal exposure to high levels of male hormones in the uterus might affect brain development.
As a result, a childs mind might focus more on understanding and categorizing objects, traits that are generally associated with the male brain. This is in contrast to empathizing and socializing, which are more often associated with female brains.
The effect of hormones on brain development isnt well known yet, giving this theory some major limitations. Still, its a start toward understanding how autism develops and why it appears more in boys than girls.
Autism In Females Often Flies Under The Radar
The diagnostic criteria for autism are the same for males and females.
Compared to males, females with autism tend to have:
- Lower likelihood of externalizing behaviors like breaking rules, disrupting activities, or interrupting others
- Higher social motivation, which means their social experiences can sometimes be more similar to individuals without autism than males with autism
- A greater capacity for traditional friendships
- Lower measures of repetitive behavior
- Better non-verbal communication
In other words, females may express their autism differently and fail to meet the diagnostic criteria. This might explain why autism is underdiagnosed in females and is more likely to be identified late, mislabelled, or missed entirely.
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Tip : Manage Anxiety And Depression
Some people find that anxiety and depression go hand in hand with symptoms of ASD. For example, difficulty relating to others can lead to feelings of anxiety. Increased anxiety can, in turn, make it even harder to communicate. You might even feel so flustered that you cant form sentences.
Feelings of isolation can also trigger depression. But there are steps you can take to manage your mood and improve how you feel.
Stay active. Exercise is good for the mind and eases stress. Some studies show that vigorous exercise can be especially useful for helping adults with ASD manage aggression. Find an aerobic exercise that fits neatly into your routine and wont potentially throw your schedule into chaos. It may be something as simple as going for daily walks or runs. Make sure its something you enjoy, so youre more likely to stick to it.
Rely on close friends. Socializing can also be good for your mood, as long as the people youre with dont stress you out. Find people who share your interests. Thanks to the Internet, its easy to find people in your local area who share your interests. If possible, look for conventions or other gatherings where people who share your hobby come together and interact in person.
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In The 2010s And Through Today
A new version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 2013. This is the reference that providers use today to diagnose autism.
Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a diagnosis in the DSM-5. Instead, the manual provides one diagnosis for all people with autism symptoms: autism spectrum disorder .
People with ASD have challenges with social communication, usually resist changes in their routine, and can be hypersensitive to noise, smell, touch, and other sensory experiences. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Today, people with mild symptoms as well as those with severe speech delays or sensory issues are all diagnosed with ASD.
The DSM-5 identifies the level of support an autistic person may need by using functioning levels. The levels range from 1 to 3 and are based on the severity of an autistic person’s symptoms, with 1 describing people who need the least support because their symptoms are mild.
However, few people outside of the medical community use the term “level 1 autism.” Often, the terms Asperger’s syndrome or mild autism are still used, though they are controversial within the autistic community.
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Do Symptoms Of Autism Change Over Time
For many children, symptoms improve with age and behavioral treatment. During adolescence, some children with ASD may become depressed or experience behavioral problems, and their treatment may need some modification as they transition to adulthood. People with ASD usually continue to need services and supports as they get older, but depending on severity of the disorder, people with ASD may be able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.
Fear Of Making A Mistake
A learning characteristic of autism is a tendency to have a fear of making a mistake . When unsure what to do or say, the situation becomes a trigger for a flight, fight or freeze response. Research on the cognitive abilities of autistic children and adults has identified a conspicuous tendency to notice detail and errors more than typical individuals . When combined with a fear of appearing stupid and having been ridiculed by peers at school or work, this can have a significant effect on the ability to learn. There can be a refusal to attempt a new activity that could fail, with the attitude of, If you dont try, you dont make a mistake.
It is important that the clinician encourages any suggestion without criticism and adopts a positive approach, implying that making a mistake is not a tragedy or a sign of intellectual disability. Making a mistake provides useful information to discover the elusive solution. In other words, we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Autistic clients can be very sensitive to any indication of being stupid. A valuable motivation in a learning situation can be to appeal to intellectual abilities with a comment such as, that suggestion demonstrates your amazing intellectual ability and creativity which can be a more powerful motivator than pleasing others such as, I am so delighted with that suggestion.
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Autism Symptoms And Diagnosis In Adults
The mean age of autism diagnosis in the US and UK is 4 to 5, though later diagnoses do occur . Age at diagnosis depends upon variables such as symptom severity, socioeconomic status, and initial parental concerns or misidentification of symptoms as behavioral issues 60065-4/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”> Shattuck et al., 2009). Typically individuals with more severe symptom challenges receive an autism diagnosis early in life compared to those with subtle symptomatic differences . Those diagnosed later in life are thought to have less severe symptoms and a higher likelihood of reaching self-sufficiency and functionality . However, this successful adaptation to symptoms often masks an autism diagnosis and leaves many of these individuals to experience autism-related health issues without understanding the root cause .
How Is Autism Diagnosed In Adults
A period that Kaye-OConnor calls autistic burnout is commonly a time when many autistic adults finally receive a diagnosis.
Autistic burnout happens when the demands of our lives become too much, she says. It is a time when there may be a loss of skill or function, and everyday tasks can feel overwhelming or insurmountable. Autistic burnout is when someone might seem more autistic, or when autistic traits become more apparent. This can happen at any stage of life and often occurs during times of major changes, transitions or stress.
As for moving forward with attaining a diagnosis, Dr. Lobel says that getting diagnosed by a professional is critical, rather than turning to the opinions of loved ones or unreliable surveys on the internet.
Locating a psychologist or neuropsychologist that completes a comprehensive evaluation is an important part of the diagnostic process and one that includes a clinical interview, specific autism rating scales, and the administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition, Module 4 , she explains. Consulting with ones insurance provider or primary physician for referrals can be a good place to start. Though it can be hard to find a psychologist that solely focuses on assessing and treating adults suspected of having autism, look for pediatric psychologists in your area that are trained and experienced to conduct autism evaluations, as they have the expertise to understand how autism affects the lifespan.
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Autism And Understanding The Emotions Of Other People
An autistic person may find it hard to understand the emotions of other people. Emotions are interpreted by subtle messages sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language. These are often missed or misinterpreted by an autistic person. Because of this, autistic people might be mistakenly perceived as being rude or unfeeling. Autistic people may find it difficult to understand how others perceive their behaviour.
Behavioral Signs Were Not Evident
Sometimes, signs of autism may not become obvious until much later in childhood or adulthood when certain demands increase.
For instance, if you struggle to interpret subtle communication cues, the symptom may only become more recognizable later on in situations such as employment or dating, says Hanks.
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Behavioral Strategies For Autism: Aba Therapy And Other Approaches
Communication boards, sign language, SGDs, and PECS can all empower a child with ASD to express himself or herself more effectively. However, while these resources can improve a childs communication skills, additional strategies may be needed to address behavior. Three examples of autism behavior management strategies are discussed below, including applied behavior analysis , relationship development intervention , and sensory integration therapy.
Causes And Risk Factors
Researchers dont know the primary causes of ASD, but studies suggest that a persons genes can act together with aspects of their environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Some factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of developing ASD include:
- Having a sibling with ASD
- Having older parents
- Having certain genetic conditions
- Having a very low birth weight
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Studies On Sexuality In Individuals With Asd
About 10 years after the official entry of autism in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, the first systematic studies on the sexuality of patients with ASD were published.8–11 The current state of research on sexual experiences, sexual behaviors, sexual attitudes, or sexual knowledge of ASD individuals is rather mixed, with some studies finding differences from healthy controls while others do not. However, because of the heterogeneous nature of the disorder spectrum and the diverse scientific methodology of the studies, this is not surprising. Previous studies have: included female and/or male patients in residential settings with presumably more impairments and less opportunities for sexual experiences focused on persons with intellectual impairments or other comorbid developmental disabilities, thereby leading to confounding effects used online surveys in which only higher-functioning individuals took part relied on reports from family members and care-givers or from the patients themselves and assessed individuals with ASD in different age ranges.
Living With Adult Autism Tip : Improve Communication And Relationships
If other people have a hard time reading and understanding youand you themyoull likely have difficulty with relationships. But you can still find ways to nurture a healthy social life.
Consider disclosing your diagnosis. Talking about your diagnosis can be difficult and the social stigma attached to ASD may make you shy away from doing so. While disclosure is entirely up to you and your comfort level, it may help improve some relationships. Letting close friends and family know about your diagnosis can help them understand why you have a hard time interpreting their sarcastic comments, for example, or why youre distressed by sounds that seem normal to everyone else.
Note when youre experiencing sensory overload. Perhaps you find it difficult to keep up with everything thats going on in an intense group conversation. Or maybe something as simple as loud traffic or a barking dog is bothering you. Do what you can to minimize distractions. This might involve switching rooms or leaving a larger group for a one-on-one chat.
Look for common ground with the person youre talking to. Establishing commonalities can lead to more relaxed and enjoyable conversations. If you have similar hobbies, thats, of course, great news. Otherwise, you can look for other things you both like or dislike. This could be anything from a shared interest in cars to a shared dislike for loud noises.
Support groups for adults with autism
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A Note On Autistic Burnout
We are increasingly recognising the potential for autistic burnout when demands exceed coping abilities or burnout as a response to stressful life events and long-term camouflaging . Recovery is protracted and may last months or years. Burnout affects mental health, energy levels and cognitive abilities. According to Higgins et al , the degree of cognitive confusion and overload associated with autistic burnout could limit the effectiveness of conventional CBT. For example, many clinicians may treat depression using the traditional CBT methods of behavioural activation and increasing social contact. Both these methods are likely to increase burnout leading to a worsening of symptoms. Utilising cognitive restructuring may increase rumination and analysis paralysis.
Our clinical experience has indicated that emotion regulation and a positive sense of self have been achieved by greater self-compassion and self-acceptance, such as the comment I can look back now and cut myself a bit of slack CBT can include activities to celebrate the qualities associated with autism with a positive outlook encouraging greater resilience in coping with situations associated with distress and agitation.
Rigidity And Need For Routine
Once a child with autism has learned and mastered a particular routine, it can be very difficult for them to change it. However, in the United States, children are expected to master multiple routines at once: a home routine, a school routine, and a summer routine. And these routines change constantly.
The kindergarten routine may include learning centers and nap time, while the first-grade routine may include lining up at the cafeteria and sitting still in rows.
For a child with autism, the change can be overwhelming, especially if it comes without warning. The outcome can be age-inappropriate behaviors or interests that come from well-learned and well-loved routines.
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Context Behavior And Consequence
Challenging behaviors do not occur in a vacuum but instead depend on context and environmental surroundings. Providers cannot create successful intervention plans without understanding the context within which behavior occurs. Creating a timeline for each behavior allows providers to assess causes and potential support strategies. Elements include:
Change The Situation Completely
In some circumstances, a child’s school, home, activity choices, or location may need to change.
This may sound like an extreme response, but if the child’s school is unable to serve their needs neighbors are intolerant or if preferred activities are simply impossible for an autistic child, a guardian may need to consider options such as a private school, a different neighborhood, or a change in routines.
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Tip : Better Organize Your Life
While many adults with ASD are extremely organized, others may become so fixated on certain interests that other aspects of their lives become disorganized. If this is a challenge you face, these tips can help you stay organized:
Use a timer to stay on track. This can be especially useful when youre working on a hobby that youre intensely passionate about. Once the timer goes off, you know its time to switch to an activity that is less intriguing, but nonetheless important, such as paying bills or grocery shopping.
Use a list or day planner. If remembering appointments and other responsibilities is a challenge, use a paper planner or an organizational app for your cell phone. You could also use anything from spreadsheets to a whiteboard to help you organize daily tasks.
Automate certain aspects of your life. For example, use online banking to track spending and automatic payment options to manage your bills. This can also help you avoid the clutter that tends to build up when you receive paper billing statements in the mail.
Why Is Asperger’s Controversial
Some people in the autistic community continue to use and identify with an Asperger’s diagnosis, but there are also many who do not accept the term. One reason that Asperger’s is controversial is that the name has roots in the Holocaust.
Some historians believe that Hans Aspergerâthe researcher for whom the syndrome was namedâ worked with the Nazis and that his research on autistic children was largely motivated by eugenics.
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