Myths & Misconceptions About Autism
Researchers are learning more and more about autism every year. While it was virtually unheard of just a few decades ago, autism is now a well-known disorder. Its prevalence has risen from one in 1,500 children in 1975 to one in 59 children today, according to the CDC, making autism a very common disorder.4 Still, myths and misconceptions about autism spectrum disorder abound. Here, we debunk the most common of these.
Family Support For Autistic People
The family members of autistic individuals; are also likely to need some support. Having an autistic child can have a significant effect on parents, who may react to the diagnosis in a variety of ways, including relief, shock, grief, anger and guilt.;
Feelings of stress, confusion and anxiety are also common in parents who are caring for an autistic child. It can be valuable for parents to consider joining a support group or participating in counselling.
For more information visit the Better Health Channel page Autism spectrum disorder tips for parents.
What Are The Dsm
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .;
The DSM-5 is now the standard reference that healthcare providers use to diagnose mental and behavioral conditions, including autism.;
By special permission of the American Psychiatric Association, you can read the full-text of the new diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder and the related diagnosis of social communication disorder below.
General Considerations For Assessing Psychiatric Comorbidity In Asd
1) Establish a baseline. It is important to establish an individuals baseline for when he or she has functioned best. For psychiatric conditions that are episodic or those that appear later in development , it is important to distinguish baseline behaviors and functioning from distinct changes in symptoms that are expected with the onset of a co-occurring psychiatric condition.
2) Assess for medical comorbidity. Assess for medical problems that can exacerbate emotional and behavioral symptoms, particularly in less verbal people.
3) Factor in genetics. Some genetic syndromes are known to be associated with psychiatric conditions and behavioral phenotypes. This can help with more targeted screening .
4) Consider symptoms in the context of developmental level. Comorbid conditions should be considered if there are symptoms that are beyond what would be expected for an individuals mental age and developmental level.
Myth: People With Autism Are Intellectually Challenged
Truth: Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental, not an intellectual, disorder. This means that people who have autism generally have a normal IQ and can excel in many pursuits. In fact, 44 percent of children identified with autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability.
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Mental Health Stressors For Caregivers
Sometimes when we get caught up in whether ASD should count as a mental health diagnosis, we neglect to recognize the concerns of those living with the condition. The more important concern is solving the real problems these individuals and their families face.
Autism spectrum disorder is a serious, life-long diagnosis that often requires long-term care. Like any other chronic medical condition, it takes a toll on family members providing that care. Here are just a few things to consider:
Mental Illness Vs Developmental Disorder
Mental illnesses are health conditions that involve changes in mood, emotion, thinking, and behaving. They are associated with mental distress and problems with social functioning. Around one in five adults in the United States has some form of mental illness at any given time, according to the American Psychiatric Association.1 The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression. Mental illness can occur at any age and is treatable with medication, therapy, or a combination of medication and therapy.
One in Five Adults Have a Form of Mental Disorder
Developmental disorders like autism differ from mental illness in several important ways. Developmental disorders generally appear at birth or during childhood and are diagnosed by the age of 18. While mental illness doesnt typically interfere with cognitive abilities, a developmental disorder may impact a persons ability to learn or to understand certain thoughts. Unlike mental illness, which can be successfully treated, developmental disorders are lifelong disabilities.
Autism is 4 Times More Common in Boys Than Girls
What Does A Psychologist Do For People With Autism
Psychologists are often involved in the process of diagnosing both children and adults with autism. They may also recommend appropriate treatment programs, and/or support the process of evaluation, benchmarking and ongoing assessment.
Developmental and child psychologists work with children to help them engage with others through play, and learn skills such as joint attention .
School psychologists may work with autistic students to help them engage with their peers, manage stress, or handle difficult interactions with bullies or general teasing. They may also work with parents;and teachers to develop strategies for school success.
Psychologists work with both children and adults with autism;to treat issues such as social anxiety, depression, and perseverative behavior . Psychologists also work with individuals on the autism spectrum to help them manage self stimulation , “autopsy” social interactions, understand social cues, and manage school and work relationships.
Behavioral psychologists are in high demand within the autism community. They may evaluate autistic behaviors to better understand their meaning and purpose, develop behavioral programs to teach a wide range of skills, or help families to manage aggression and other problematic behaviors in the home.
Where Can I Find A Qualified Psychologist
Because there is no such thing as an “autism psychologist,” there is no directory of psychologists skilled in working with children or adults with autism. To find an appropriate psychologist, parents may want to start at a local children’s hospital with an autism center or program; at a regional autism center; or in the school district. Adults with autism can do a local online search, but may be better served by connecting with autism self-advocacy organizations such as GRASP.org.
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Restrictive / Repetitive Behaviors May Include:
- Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
- Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
- Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
- Getting upset by slight changes in a routine
- Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
- Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
- Being strong visual and auditory learners
- Excelling in math, science, music, or art
Myth: Vaccines Cause Autism
Truth: Numerous large-scale, high-quality research studies have been carried out to determine what relationship vaccines have to autism. None of this research has found any scientific evidence to back up this widely believed claim. The truth is, autism is highly complex and has a range of risk factors, including genetics and environment. Vaccines are not a risk factor for autism.
Social Communication / Interaction Behaviors May Include:
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Tending not to look at or listen to people
- Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
- Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
- Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
- Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
- Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
- Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
- Having trouble understanding another persons point of view or being unable to predict or understand other peoples actions
Causes Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Early theories of autism placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the childs parents, particularly the mother. Bruno Bettelheim suggested that a mothers ambivalent attitudes and her frozen and rigid emotions toward her child were the main causal factors in childhood autism. In what must certainly stand as one of the more controversial assertions in psychology over the last 50 years, he wrote, I state my belief that the precipitating factor in infantile autism is the parents wish that his child should not exist . As you might imagine, Bettelheim did not endear himself to a lot of people with this position; incidentally, no scientific evidence exists supporting his claims.
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How Does Autism Affect Adults
Families who have autistic loved ones may worry about what life with ASD looks like for an adult.
Some autistic adults go on to live or work independently. Others may require continued aid or support throughout their lives. Each autistic person is different.
Introducing therapies and other remedies early in life can help lead to more independence and better quality of life.
Sometimes autistic people dont receive a diagnosis until much later in life. This is due, in part, to a previous lack of awareness among medical practitioners.
Is Autism A Mental Health Condition
Is Autism A Mental Health Condition?
Theres a lot of confusion out there around what autism is, and whether its a mental health condition, or something entirely different.
Autism one example of an Autism Spectrum Disorder condition, is a condition that impacts on a persons capability to fully interact with the world around them. In other words, people with ASD cant relate to the social or natural world in the same way that we do. Its a wide-ranging affliction, with a huge range of severities, and as a result no two people with ASD have the same experience with it.
Its also important to note that there are a number of different branches of ASD autism itself is one, but Aspergers syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified also come under the ASD umbrella.
We still dont know what exactly causes ASD . It is a neuro-developmental disability and its generally accepted that the likely causes are either genetic, or neurological or perhaps both. But because theres no consensus or proof on the causes, theres also no cure for ASD at this point in time.
Some of the common indicators of ASD include:
Thats where Lizard Centre comes in. Contact us today to start the discussion if youre looking for support for a child diagnosed with ASD.
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Psychological Disorder As A Co
Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group, continuously revises guidelines and treatments for those with coexisting psychiatric conditions. Among doctors and therapist like me who work with autism every day, we feel that Bipolar and other mental illnesses are overdiagnosed in people with autism since many symptoms overlap. We know that individuals with autism have trouble expressing and understanding their emotions. Being able to explain what you are feeling and understanding how to communicate that feeling is essential in order to segregate;autism from such mental illnesses like;bipolar disease and schizophrenia.
Psychiatrists use traditional methods that have been around for a long time, to assess psychological;disorders. Autism and its spectrum of disorders have;come to the forefront in the past few decades making it very difficult to find proper assessment tools to separate autism from mental illness.
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.
Recognizing And Treating Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders In People With Autism
While the core features of autism impair functioning, a significant source of further impairment is comorbid psychiatric disorders.
NEUROPSYCHIATRY: PART 2
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism affects 1 in every 59 children in the US.1 While the core features of autism impair functioning, a significant source of further impairment is comorbid psychiatric disorders. People with autism spectrum disorder are more likely than the general population to have comorbid psychiatric disorders. Although prevalence rates vary widely, converging evidence suggests that anxiety disorders and ADHD are most prevalent.
Numerous factors contribute to the increased risk for comorbid psychiatric disorders. People with autism are at higher risk of being bullied and are more likely to experience adverse life events, which can increase stress and risk for depression and anxiety. Cognitive rigidity, problems with emotion regulation, and intolerance of uncertainty associated with ASD can predispose this population to higher levels of anxiety and depression.2 Emotional regulation deficits may be a transdiagnostic phenomenon that underlies features of ASD as well as anxiety and other psychiatric comorbidities.3
The ACI was used to assess psychiatric comorbidity in 109 children with ASD aged 5 to 17 years.4 Findings indicate that 72% of the children had at least one additional DSM-IV psychiatric diagnosis. Anxiety disorders were most common, followed by ADHD .
How Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Diagnosed And Treated
Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed based on a childs development and behavior, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.3 It can be detected as early as 18 months, although most children arent diagnosed until after the age of four. The sooner its diagnosed, the better the developmental outcomes.
While theres no cure for ASD, early intervention services available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can dramatically improve a childs development, including walking, talking, and interacting socially.
Treatment for autism spectrum disorder is highly individualized and involves a combination of therapies, services, and support. Although there are no medications that can treat the core symptoms of autism, medication may be used to improve functioning by helping individuals manage issues like seizures, depression, high energy levels, or difficulty focusing.;
For the most part, treating ASD involves non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as:
Offers emotional support and resources to people with autism and their families
Other interventions may include intensive parent training programs, social skills groups, and play-based skills groups.
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Autism And Bipolar Disorder
People with bipolar disorder tend to alternate between a frenzied state known as mania and episodes of depression.
It is important to understand the symptoms of true bipolar disorder from those of autism by looking at when the symptoms appeared and how long they lasted. For example, a child with autism may be consistently high-energy and socially intrusive through childhood. As such, her tendency to talk to strangers and make inappropriate comments are likely part of her autism, and not a symptom of a manic mood swing.
Treatments: Some of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder can be problematic for some with autism who has difficulty recognizing and expressing feelings. A psychiatrist can provide additional medications that may be safer.
Communication And Social Interaction For Autistic People
Autistic people often have difficulty with communication. They may have difficulty expressing their needs. Some autistic people never develop language, while others might have good verbal language skills.For those who do develop language, they may have difficulties using appropriate grammar and vocabulary, and constructing meaningful sentences. They may misunderstand words, interpret them literally or not understand them at all. Other peoples feelings and emotions can be difficult to understand.;
Autistic people can find social skills and social communication very difficult.;
This may mean that they appear disinterested in others, aloof or unsure of how to engage in social interactions. They may have difficulty using or interpreting non-verbal communication such as eye contact, gestures and facial expressions, or appear disinterested in the experiences and emotions of others.;Establishing and maintaining friendships can be challenging for some autistic people.;Some autistic people appear to be withdrawn and can become isolated others try very hard to be sociable, but may not seem to get it right. There is a range of help available, including assessment, education programs and family support.;
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.
Common Conditions Among People With Autism
While many people with autism are misdiagnosed with other types of mental illness, many are also appropriately diagnosed with both autism and mental illness. In fact, mental illness is more common among people with autism than it is among the general population.
The most common co-occurring mental illnesses for people with autism include depression and anxiety.
It’s not completely clear why this may be the case. One theory suggests that there is a genetic link between autism and mental illness. Another theory points to the extreme challenges of living in the modern world with autism. The fact is that for many people with autism, it is anxiety-provoking and depressing to attempt to overcome social, sensory, and/or intellectual challenges that are simply part of who they are.
In addition to mental illness, many children and adults with autism receive additional developmental diagnoses. While it can be argued in many cases that the symptoms are associated with autism, it is sometimes helpful to know that a child is both autistic and, for example, diagnosable with ADHD, learning disabilities, hyperlexia, Savant Syndrome, or another disorder.
A secondary diagnosis, while it may or may not be completely appropriate, can sometimes provide direction for therapy, academic support, and services. Hopefully, in doing so, this could correct any potential misdiagnoses moving forward.
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