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.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives others need less.
A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified , and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
What Is A Learning Disability
A learning disability is a neurological condition that interferes with how someone learns. It has nothing to do with intelligence, motivation, or poor parenting. It is a difference in how information is received and processed in the brain.
Some different types of learning disabilities include:
- Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Individuals with dyslexia may have trouble with letter and word recognition, understanding words and ideas, reading speed and fluency, and general vocabulary.
- Dyscalculia is a number-based learning disability. People with dyscalculia may struggle with recalling sequences of numbers, calculating using math functions, organization of numbers, operation signs, number facts, counting, and telling time.
- Dysgraphia is a writing-based learning disability. Individuals with dysgraphia may have problems with neatness when writing, illegible handwriting, copying letters and words, spelling, and organizing their thoughts on paper.
Auditory or visual processing disorders cause problems in understanding language that is heard or seen. With auditory processing disorder, you may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in sounds and speaking individual sounds within words. With visual processing disorder you may miss subtle differences in shapes, such as interchanging m and n. You may also reverse letters and numbers and have poor hand-eye coordination.
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Losing Control Of Emotions
Children with autism often lose control of their emotions and experience meltdowns . In autism, meltdowns are almost always the result of either sensory assaults, anxiety, frustration, or a combination of all three.
In a child who has not been diagnosed with autism, however, the symptoms may look like oppositional defiant disorder which is considered a behavioral disorder.
Children with higher-functioning autism may also receive a range of inappropriate diagnoses before receiving their autism diagnosis. Some of the most common include ADHD, hyperlexia, learning disabilities, and speech delays.
It’s important to note that some children with very high functioning autism may not be diagnosed until they are well into their teens or even adulthood. When that happens, it can be tricky. Developmental disabilities usually appear in childhood, and it may be necessary to dig into an individual’s past to unearth signs that disabilities existed prior to adulthood.
If childhood information isn’t readily available, it may be impossible to provide an autism spectrum diagnosis even if it is the most appropriate diagnosis based on symptoms and behavior.
Taking Care Of Yourself
This is likely to have been a difficult time for you as a family carer as well as for the person that you support. You may continue to experience increased stress due to fear, uncertainty and the reduced formal support available at times, which could result in increased physical and emotional strain.
Government advice for unpaid carers has a section on looking after your own health while supporting others.
Carers UK has some advice for carers on protecting your mental wellbeing.
If you start feeling that you are unable to cope, seek support and advice from your local authority.
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What Is Pathological Demand Avoidance
Pathological Demand Avoidance is a form of autism which may also affect the way a person communicates and relates to other people.
People with PDA may experience challenges such as specific learning difficulties, but their central difficulty is that they are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. This avoidance is rooted in an anxiety-based need to be in control.
Mencaps online community is a safe and supportive place to meet others, ask questions about learning disability, share experiences and offer support.
What To Do If You Or The Person You Care For Has Symptoms
The government provides guidance for anyone caring for friends and family members, including advice on what to do if you or the person that you care for has symptoms of COVID-19.
It is important to note that the guidance differs depending on whether you, the person you support, or anyone else in the household is in the clinically vulnerable group or the clinically extremely vulnerable group . The advice relating to each group is summarised below.
If nobody in the family, including the family member who is an autistic person or has learning disabilities, is ill or thought to have symptoms, then support can continue in the usual way.
If someone in the household does have symptoms or confirmed coronavirus then government advice on what to do depends on whether it is the person with learning disabilities or autistic person who has symptoms, or you as carer or another member of the household. From 16 August, what to do is also dependant on whether or not people have had both vaccines.
Everyone must continue to self-isolate if they develop symptoms or test positive.
Adults who have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks ago, and those aged under 18 years and six months are no longer required to isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive. Instead, you will be advised to take a PCR test, and consider the following steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
Where people have not yet been fully vaccinated, the advice below still applies.
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Students With Autism Cannot Make Friends Or Feel Emotions
Children with autism feel emotions just like everybody else, even if they show it in different ways. Most students with autism want friends, but if they struggle with social skills, they might not know how.
Luckily, teaching students with autism key social skills can help them bond with their classmates. If a child has trouble fitting in, try playing autism awareness activities or teaching a lesson about diversity with your whole class to help all of your students feel welcome.
Can People With Autism Receive Disability Benefits
In the USA, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , a public school must provide services to a child who qualifies.
In order for a child with autism to qualify for disability benefits, according to the Social Security Administration , Section 112.10 of the Impairment Listing Manual called a Blue Book, the requirements from both Part A and Part B must apply.
In essence, Part A states that there need to be deficiencies in communication, both verbal and nonverbal, as well as in social reciprocity. There would also need to be severely limiting repetitious traits that present in the childs behavior or activities. These deficiencies and limits would need to have medical proof. Part B basically calls for an extreme limitation of one area or a marked limitation of two areas of cognition which include but are not limited to understanding, memory, social interaction, focus, and self-management. Check out the Impairment Listing Manual for more qualification and benefits information.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Learning Disabilities: Ages 10
- Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills.
- Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems.
- Dislikes reading and writing avoids reading aloud.
- Poor handwriting.
- Poor organizational skills .
- Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud.
- Spells the same word differently in a single document.
Paying attention to developmental milestones can help you identify learning disorders
Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important. Early detection of developmental differences may be an early signal of a learning disability and problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct.
A developmental lag might not be considered a symptom of a learning disability until your child is older, but if you recognize it when your child is young, you can intervene early. You know your child better than anyone else does, so if you think there is a problem, it doesnt hurt to get an evaluation. You can also ask your pediatrician for a developmental milestones chart or access one in the Get more help section below.
Learning Difficulties In Children
A learning difficulty usually presents in childhood and can cause a person to experience problems in a traditional classroom setting.
We have produced a range of free resources to help you find out more about the Government’s changes to how children are supported within the Special Educational Needs system.
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Learning Disabilities In Motor Skills
Motor difficulty refers to problems with movement and coordination whether it is with fine motor skills or gross motor skills . A motor disability is sometimes referred to as an output activity meaning that it relates to the output of information from the brain. In order to run, jump, write or cut something, the brain must be able to communicate with the necessary limbs to complete the action.
Signs that your child might have a motor coordination disability include problems with physical abilities that require hand-eye coordination, like holding a pencil or buttoning a shirt.
What Is A Severe Learning Disability
The term learning disability refers to a range including mild, moderate, severe and profound/multiple learning disabilities.
A severe learning disability will be identified at birth or in early childhood.
Someone who has a severe learning disability will:
- have little or no speech
- find it very difficult to learn new skills
- need support with daily activities such as dressing, washing, eating and keeping safe
- have difficulties with social skills
- need life-long support
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The Difference Between Autism And Learning Disabilities
In autism, individuals have different symptoms such as difficulties in communication, problems in perception, impairment in learning, speech difficulties, inability to understand emotions, unresponsiveness to events, problems in physical development, disabilities in act of writing, reading writing differences etc.
Autism, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder, is a disorder whose symptoms can be relieved with the right treatment and training methods. Also, individuals with learning disabilities can express themselves better and can communicate with their surroundings in a healthier manner by using signs and symptoms.
Autistic People May Act In A Different Way To Other People
Autistic people may:
- find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
- find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
- find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
- get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
- take longer to understand information
- do or think the same things over and over
If you think you or your child may be autistic, get advice about the signs of autism.
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Students With Disabilities On The Rise Driven By Autism
After years of steady decline, the nationwide count of school-age students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has shown an upswing since the 2011-12 school year based on the most recently available federal data, driven by rapid growth in such disability categories as autism.
The count of students ages 6-21 with disabilities fell to a low of 5.67 million in fall 2011, but had risen to 5.83 million by fall 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
A third of the nationwide increase in 2014-15 came from one state, New York. The reasons for the sharp increase in the state are not clear.
These numbers gathered from reports that every state is required to file yearly with the U.S. Department of Education and analyzed by Education Week and its Research Center cannot be used to demonstrate that there is an actual increase or decrease of young people with disabilities in the country. Child-count data are sensitive to policies that encourage, or discourage, special education identification. And, as noted, a change in just one large state can have nationwide impact.
But the numbers have real implications for states and localities, which pay by far the largest share of costs for special education students.
Virginia is among the states that have seen a large increase in the population of students with autism.
Much Deeper Than Mirror Writing
The idea or myth mentioned abovethat dyslexia is simply a learning disability where children reverse letters and numbers and see words backwardsmade dyslexia seem like a visual disturbance or challenge. This was proven in a study where findings indicated that even teachers upheld the prevailing myth that dyslexia is a visual processing disorder encompassing mirror writing and word reversal rather than a phonological processing disorder.
In contrast, a study mentions the cognitive basis of dyslexia. The authors refer to dyslexia as a language disorder with specific deficits in phonological processing.
The same study by Shaywitz et al. feels evidence of disruptions in the neural systems serving reading has far reaching implications for the acceptance of dyslexia as a valid disorder.
The difficulties caused by dyslexia cant be denied, but diagnosing the condition has always been difficult. Some studies feel the existing definitions of dyslexia are to blame for unreliable diagnosis, possibly due to the fact that definitions of the disorder rely on a single indicatorfor example deficits in decoding.
A holistic way of evaluating dyslexia may also be of importance when diagnosing a child with autism who shows such symptoms. Rather than focusing on a single indicator, like the above mentioned letter reversal, it is important to look at the childs symptoms, medical history, comorbidities and any other relevant factors to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
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Learning Disabilities In Reading
There are two types of learning disabilities in reading. Basic reading problems occur when there is difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension problems occur when there is an inability to grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs.
Signs of reading difficulty include problems with:
- Letter and word recognition.
- General vocabulary skills.
Supporting People With Personal Hygiene And Cleanliness Around The House
- The autistic person or person with a learning disability in your family may want to do as much for themselves as possible. Everything they can do for themselves safely and effectively, they should do.
- Some people, conversely, will not want to engage with personal hygiene routines. Explaining the risks, and stressing the importance of good hygiene may help, but will sometimes be challenging. See our section on Not sticking to the guidelines.
- There may be tasks that you have usually done hands-on with your family member such as tooth-brushing – where prompting may be possible.
- People will need to wash their hands more often, and for longer, than they might do normally: for at least 20 seconds every two hours. The need for this has to be explained, and any skin care issues arising from it addressed.
- Cleaning of the house should be done regularly and thoroughly, especially in shared areas.
- Wipe surfaces that are touched regularly with household disinfectant.
Having clean hands is the most effective way of preventing infection from spreading.
Health and Care Innovations have created a helpful video to guide you on this process.
Here are some other sources of information on cleaning and infection control which may be helpful:
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Not Following Guidance And Advice
It may be that your family member is reluctant to follow, or does not understand, the guidance around self-isolation or the advice that can help them to stay well This can be complex because it increases the risk of infection for themselves and for other people.
- explain, repeatedly if necessary, the reasons behind the new ways of living, using some of the resources listed in this guide
- use whatever communication techniques work best in normal circumstances with your family member
- use positive reinforcement wherever possible to encourage your family member to follow the advice and guidance
- mitigate any risks, such as cleaning surfaces if the person does not wash their hands after a trip out
- contact your local Community Team for Learning Disabilities or specialist autism team for advice.