A Lot Fell Into Place: The Adults Who Discovered They Were Autistic After Their Child Was Diagnosed
The recorded incidence of autism has increased 787% in 20 years. For many parents, getting help for an autistic child alerted them to their own traits
When John Purnells 10-year-old son was diagnosed as autistic, he knew exactly how to respond. Ive always been fascinated by research, by detail, by finding out everything there is to find out about something, he says. So I did a really deep dive.
As he pored over academic papers and delved into medical science including how many autistic people have a propensity and appetite for copious research an unexpected realisation crept into his mind. I was reading about the traits of an autistic person, the difficulties they often have in social situations, the need for order and planning: and suddenly I thought: this person theyre describing isnt just my son its me.
Purnell is far from alone in discovering that hes autistic as a result of his child being diagnosed. Viewers of a recent BBC One documentary, Our Family and Autism, saw the same thing happen to the model Christine McGuinness, whose three young children with her television presenter husband, Paddy, are all on the autistic spectrum. In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with autism has rocketed a study of diagnosis trends, published in August, found the median age for diagnosis is 10 for males and 13 for females, and there was a 787% exponential increase in its recorded incidence, in the 20 years to 2018.
High Functioning Autism Symptoms
- Fixation on Particular Subjects or Ideas
- Linguistic Oddities
- Development of Repetitive or Restrictive Habits
- Dislike of Change
- Focus on Self
- Unusual Movement Patterns
Diagnosis rates for autism continue to rise, especially as parents and professionals become more familiar with the symptoms of high-functioning autism. Many patients are getting the assistance they need to live full, productive lives because their unusual behaviors are no longer seen as simple social awkwardness or eccentricity. As more caring medical and mental health professionals learn to recognize the most common symptoms of autism, the number of interventions available to people with autism will rise.
Great Strengths And Abilities
In general, people with autism are honest and dependable most are focused on their work and are rarely distracted by social activities or outside interests.
Quite a few have exceptional talents in areas such as computer coding, mathematics, music, drafting, organizing, and visual arts. While it can be tough for autistic adults to set up and manage their own space and schedules, many are outstanding employees.
Some corporations have started to recognize the value of actively recruiting and hiring autistic individuals a few include:
- Freddie Mac
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Problems Processing Physical Sensations
Many individuals with autism have sensory difficulties. They may find specific noises, tastes, smells, or feelings intolerable. Noisy public places can lead to emotional distress, as can uncomfortable clothing or unwanted touches. These issues can be disruptive and stressful, but according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, autism symptoms can improve over time as children with mild autism learn to regulate their own behavior through work with professionals.
How Can You Tell If Its Autism Or Just Behavior
I get asked a lot about where that line is between autism and behavior.
The thing is, theres a question behind the question here that most people miss.
Parents ask things like
What is autism? Whats behavior?
How do I know if its a typical kid thing, or if it is an autistic trait that needs to be accommodated for?
But the real question theyre asking me is
What is the behavior I should intervene? And what is the behavior that I should leave alone?
What is the behavior I should accept? What is the behavior I should change?
And heres the thing, the fact that you are asking this question actually tells me that youre well on your way in your autism journey.
And heres why
It tells me that you know already that autism isnt a negative thing that should be changed. It tells me you already want to protect who your child is.
And at the same time, there are some behaviors that just arent actually acceptable.
And so how do you know if what your child is doing is an actual autistic trait that should be accepted and accommodated for, or if its a harmful behavior that actually should be changed.
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Signs Of Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome are generally considered to be on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. It is still a form of autism and is a lifelong condition.
Signs and symptoms that are typical of people with Asperger syndrome include:
- Very narrow and highly focused interests
- Great importance on rules and routines
- High standard of language skills, potentially very formal in expression
- Monotonous or repetitive speech
- Making the same noise repeatedly
These behaviors provide the person with a form of sensory input that the person finds appealing or helpful. There are various reasons why someone could be engaging in self-stimulatory behavior:
- They find it enjoyable
- It provides something to focus on, thereby reducing the effects of other, nearby stimuli
- It is soothing and helps with anxiety
Consulting People You Know
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What Behaviors Should I Accept And What Behaviors Should I Change
As parent advocates, we accept and embrace our kids, and we want the world to accept and embrace them as well.
But also as parent-advocates, we have to, you know, parent our kids.
And sometimes accepting and embracing can kind of feel like we stopped parenting altogether.
So heres the dealIt really doesnt matter if what your child is doing is autism or behavior.
What really matters isIs it harmful?
Harmful behaviorseven if theyre Autistic traitsshould be changed.
Now you might be thinking, hold the phone Kaylene You preach constantly about not changing Autistic kids And now this?
But heres the thing: If a behavior is causing harm, the cause of the behavior doesnt justify ignoring it.
Now, the cause of the harmful behavior is important for solving the problem or changing the behavior but it shouldnt determine whether or not it is changed.
Now you might be thinking Okay, then when is a behavior harmful?
And eventually, Ill write an entire post on that specifically. But for now, here are a few questions I run through when determining this:
- Does the behavior harm themselves?
- Does the behavior harm others?
- Does the behavior ignore other peoples consent?
- Is the behavior illegal?
And if you go through this list and your childs behavior is harmful, it means that as a parent you get to solve that problem with your child.
But its important to remember that solving the problem isnt about harsh punishments or strict rules.
And you dont have to do that alone!
I’m Not Staring I’m Actually Completely Dissociating From My Vision I’m Not Looking At You That Thing Or Anything That’s Just Where My Eyes Happened To Be Pointing When I Went ‘inside’ I Also Dissociate From My Vision Whenever I Am Actively Listening
“It wasn’t until I was 19 that someone pointed out that I was always ‘staring at their tits’ whenever I was talking with them. No, lady, your tits are just ‘down and out of the way,’ where my face is always pointed. Nowadays, I usually have the presence of mind to add ‘off to the left’ to my ‘down and out of the way.'” u/Jarhyn
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Diagnosis In Older Children And Adolescents
ASD symptoms in older children and adolescents who attend school are often first recognized by parents and teachers and then evaluated by the schools special education team. The schools team may perform an initial evaluation and then recommend these children visit their primary health care doctor or doctors who specialize in ASD for additional testing.
Parents may talk with these specialists about their childs social difficulties including problems with subtle communication. These subtle communication issues may include problems understanding tone of voice, facial expressions, or body language. Older children and adolescents may have trouble understanding figures of speech, humor, or sarcasm. Parents may also find that their child has trouble forming friendships with peers.
The Costs Of Pretending In Public
Researchers from that 2016 study found that all this constant camouflaging often comes with costs, like exhaustion, increased stress, meltdowns due to social overload, anxiety, depression, and even a negative impact on the development of ones identity.
I find the last part interesting. I think all the other costs read similar to those warnings listed on new and miraculous medications you see advertised on television .
I dont necessarily think all my camouflaging has had a negative impact on my identity development, but I do know that much of my teenage journaling was peppered with the phrase, All I ever wanted was to be real.
I never thought about why I used the phrase so often. But looking back, I think it was just my way of coming to terms with that fact that I wasnt like anyof my friends. For a long while, I thought they were more real, more authentic, than I was.
Scientists now know that some autistic people actually feel more emotions than regular people. We are, in many ways, more in tune with the nuances and ups and downs of the psyches of those around us.
I think thats true. One of my skills has always been the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. I can step out of myself and see where another person is coming from. And I can sense what theyre feeling.
So, yes, Im all right with altering my behavior to keep them from being uncomfortable. If theyre comfortable, I sense that too, and then were both more comfortable.
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Don’t Talk To Me As If I’m A Child I Was Doing A Course A Few Months Ago And I Said Something In Response To What The Teacher Had Said She Ended Up Annoyed With Me And Even Though I Tried To Explain What I Had Meant She Still Talked To Me As If I Were A Child Even When I Gave Up Trying To Explain And Said I Understood She Didn’t Shut Up
“I’d also forgotten to put on the form that I’m autistic, so they didn’t know for a couple of days. When they found out, she sat me down and told me how I shouldn’t be ashamed of being autistic. I think she was a bit surprised when I told her I’d just forgotten and wasn’t ashamed in the slightest.” u/MrRieper
My Story Being Diagnosed With Autism As An Adult
My whole life I thought there was something wrong with me. My diagnosis changed those thoughts. When I learned about my diagnosis I knew nothing was wrong with meI knew that I had something very special about me and my life was about to change.
It was April 3, 2013, two weeks after my 34th birthday, when I heard the words: youre on the spectrum. As soon as I heard those four words, my body collapsed into my mom’s arms. My mom and my stepdad were both in the room with me and you could feel the relief that went out the window.
I remember walking out of work two days after my official diagnosis after a long day and stopping in my steps in the middle of the parking lot thinking to myself I feel normal. Why, after all these years, did I finally feel normal?
Im still trying to figure out what this all means. All I know for sure is that I finally feel whole and as strange as this might sound, my life makes sense now. I dont feel out of place and awkward. I guess the greatest thing that came out of this is how Ive been feeling my whole life has finally been validated.
I think I had two things working against me growing up. The first was that autism wasnt as known as it is today. Second, it was and still is in a small way considered to be a boys thing.
While boys on the spectrum tend to become rowdy, girls on the spectrum tend to introvert and are labeled shy and quiet. Thats all I heard growing upthat I was shy and quiet. It annoyed the heck out of me.
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Causes Of Affective Disorders
The causes of affective disorders arent fully understood.
Neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, play a major role in affecting mood. When theyre imbalanced in some way, or dont signal properly to your brain, an affective disorder can be the result. What exactly causes the imbalance isnt fully known.
Life events can trigger affective disorders. A traumatic event or personal loss can cause depression or another affective disorder. Use of alcohol and drugs is also a risk factor.
There also seems to be a genetic factor. If someone in your family has one of these disorders, youre at a greater risk of developing one as well. This means that theyre hereditary.
However, this doesnt guarantee youll develop an affective disorder just because a family member has one.
Learning Accounting By Herself At Home
Sophies wish is granted: the interviewer asks her instead about her time at university. Relieved, she happily launches into an explanation of her masters thesis on meteorological modelling, but he cuts her off abruptly, clearly irritated. He wants to know why she is applying for a temporary job as an accounting assistant when she has no experience or training. Although her heart is racing wildly, Sophie manages to keep her composure, explaining that she taught herself accounting at home in the evenings. She describes the excellent MOOC she found on the website of the French Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, and tells him how one of the questions she asked the teacher on the forum led to a fascinating debate on the concept of depreciation expenses.
Sophie is not good at guessing what people are thinking, but she understands from the way the man is staring at her that he believes she is lying. Overwhelmed, she feels weaker by the minute. She watches his lips move but does not understand what hes saying. Ten minutes later shes in the street, with no memory of how the interview ended. She is shaking and holding back tears. She curses herself, wondering how anyone could be so stupid and pathetic.
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How Is Autism Diagnosed
Doctors check babies and little kids for signs of autism at every checkup. A parent may think that something is wrong and tell the doctor. Maybe the child is old enough to speak but doesn’t. Or a kid doesn’t seem interested in people or plays in unusual ways.
When a doctor thinks a kid might have autism, he or she will work with a team of experts to see if it is autism or something else.
We Cancel Plans At The Last Minute
Its always a bit of a gut punch when youre all dolled up ready to head out and, suddenly, your partner in crime cancels. But, whats more frustrating is when that person comes out with some lame excuse for why, i.e. my car broke down whilst I was on the way to wash my hair and I suddenly came down with the flu as my dog ate my homework
In reality, the autistic person in question would probably prefer to have had all the above happened as, the truth is, they likely have been hit by a truck of anxiety. This has been the case for me on so many occasions and, believe me, no matter how disappointed you are with us, we are likely to feel twice as bad about it ourselves.
So, if this happens to you, try and not pile onto our woes and maybe encourage us to open up about the thoughts holding us back. If we mention that we do want to go out, but are anxious about the unexpected, offer us a get out of jail free card by saying something like We can leave whenever you want . Furthermore, if the anxiety really is too much, why not move the evening plans to a lesser packed venue, such as someones home? Fun doesnt always have to involve overpriced drinks.
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