Finding A Place In The Social World
Even if they escape bullying, many teens with ASD struggle with social isolation. A large national study of teens receiving special education services revealed that students with ASD were less likely to take part in social activities than adolescents with speech and language disorders, learning disabilities or intellectual disability.1
More than 40 percent of the teens with ASD never saw friends outside of school. Half were never invited to take part in activities. For 54 percent, friends never called.1
A smaller study found that “social withdrawal worsened with age for a substantial proportion of youths” with ASD between ages 9 and 18, regardless of IQ.2
“Teens say actually the hardest part is not having friends. People think they don’t want to have friends, but they do,” Ms. Sicile-Kira said.
Dr. Keefer said many teens and young adults with ASD want, at a minimum, to be accepted. “There is a desire to be accepted, to have people around you who are nice to you and with whom you can share your interests,” she said.
The “special interests” common to autism can be an escape from social interaction, if a teen occupies himself solely with his favorite topic. “But, if used correctly, those special interests can be a way to connect with other people. An interest in gaming, for instance, is often a way for teenage boys to connect with one another,” Dr. Keefer said.
- See IAN’s Adults with Autism section.
Difference Of Autism Signs In Boys And Girls
The symptoms of ASD may range from mild to extreme, and there is no definitive list of symptoms that are sure to be shown by each and every child. On top of that, since boys are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder four times more than girls , classic symptoms may be described in a way to refer more to the boys.
The symptoms are generally the same for the both. But, an autistic girl may be:
- hide their feelings better
- good at imitating social behaviors.
This can make the impairs seem much less noticeable compared to the case of boys. Also, the autism traits in girls are reported less by their teachers.
It is important to note that not all children with autism show all of the signs. In addition, many children who actually dont have autism may show a few of the symptoms and signs. That is why professional evaluation is of utmost importance.
There are certain developmental milestones children reach in terms of their language and social abilities. Caregivers should take notice of these milestones. They should observe children closely during the first few years of their lives. These are crucial times in terms of early diagnosis and intervention. Although not reaching a milestone at a specified time or achieving it late does not necessarily mean that the child has autism, it may be a sign of a developmental delay.
How Can An Asd Diagnosis Help A Girl With Autism
Just as with their male counterparts, women and girls with autism benefit from early intervention. An early diagnosis can mean earlier access to therapies and resources. It can also mean more time for the girl and her family to learn how to manage an ASD diagnosis. Early intervention is key, but a diagnosis later in life is better than no diagnosis at all.
According to Dr. Susan F. Epstein, a clinical neuropsychologist, girls with autism can often end up wondering whats wrong with them and suffer from poor self-esteem, depression, and can become vulnerable to bullying.
Young and adult women who are diagnosed with autism might have to play catch-up on social skills and coping mechanisms. However, after an adjustment period, most women and girls find relief from receiving their diagnosis. After a diagnosis, you and/or your child can meet with autism experts, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, or other professionals who can answer questions and help long-term.
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Sue In Conversation With Sarah Wild
Interview with Sarah Wild, Head teacher, Limpsfield Grange School
Sarah Wild is Head Teacher of Limpsfield Grange a secondary school in Surrey for autistic girls that was part of ITV documentary back in 2015.
Limpsfield Grange in Surrey is the only state run boarding school in Britain specialising in girls with autism. The girls are all aged from 11-16 and more than half of them are on the autistic spectrum. The documentary focused on three very different pupils, Katie, Abigail and Beth, & the one-off documentary followed them over the course of six months both at school and at home, to offer a unique insight into what it means to be autistic and a teenage girl.
With increasing numbers of girls being diagnosed every year, the true extent to which girls suffer from the condition is perhaps only now being recognised. With extreme variations in how every girl presents their condition, the school does its best to prepare each girl for an unforgiving outside world using a range of innovative methods, sometimes with tough love and always extraordinary patience.
I ask Sarah to explain what autism is, and how it affects girls and boys differently, how the school helps the girls overcome their low self-esteem as many been bullied at their previous school & how the school helps with friendship and empathy challenges with young people as I know that it can often be the greatest anxiety and obsession of all.
Development Of Repetitive Or Restrictive Habits
Repetitive habits are another sign of high-functioning autism. Those habits could interfere with the persons ability to do what they need to do or what others want them to do. One type of repetitive habit might be related to movement. The individual might have to tie and untie their shoes multiple times before they are satisfied and are able to start walking or leave the house. Some people develop restrictive habits that interfere with socially accepted living. For example, an individual might refuse to wear any other kind of shirt than a tee shirt. This could impact their health and well-being if they live in a place with cold weather.
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Early Signs Of Autism In A 2 Year Old
If you feel like your 2-year-old doesnt seem to be catching up with their development milestones, you may start looking for certain signs of autism spectrum disorder for any delays.Mild symptoms can be mistaken for being shy or the terrible twos.
Here are some red flags that may indicate ASD:
- Doesnt speak more than 15 words,
- Cant walk ,
- Doesnt know functions of household items like fork,
- Doesnt imitate parents actions or words,
- Doesnt use items for their own purposes,
- Doesnt follow simple instructions
Facing The Demands Of High School
Meanwhile, the demands on teens increase dramatically. By high school, students are expected to change classes hourly, keep track of books and assignments for each class, follow complex directions, complete multi-phase projects, and turn in homework on time.
Amy Keefer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said schools and parents can help teens who struggle with planning, organization and other executive skills.
“Teens on the spectrum will require a greater level of external supports from family and the school,” Dr. Keefer said. Those supports may take the form of frequent parent-school communication, teachers checking assignment books to make sure they’re filled out correctly, and teachers helping students break down projects into smaller steps, with due dates for each step, she said.
Many elementary schools provide those types of organizational supports, plus help with social skills, she said. However, educators often reduce or eliminate such help in middle or high school, when students are expected to be more self-sufficient.
“In general, as you move up the grades, the amount of support and scaffolding you get from teachers drops off,” agreed Dr. Rosenthal.
That can cause problems. “For most kids on the spectrum, they need those supports throughout their school careers,” Dr. Keefer said.
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Autism Features May Be More Severe In Old Age
If you mention autism to most people, they will think about children, but it is a lifelong diagnosis. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. Little is known about how the conditions features change with age. This is because autism is a relatively new condition, first described in 1943 and not regularly identified until the 1970s. It is only now that those people first diagnosed are reaching older age that we can start to learn whether the condition changes over a lifetime.
There have been some suggestions that autism features may reduce as people get older. These reports, describing fewer difficulties with older age, are often from people with autism themselves and from their families. But how much evidence is there for this? Our latest research provides some answers, and also raises some new questions.
Working with the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre in Southampton, United Kingdom, we assessed 146 adults who were referred to the center seeking a diagnosis of autism between 2008 and 2015, and who consented to take part in the research. People were between 18 and 74 years old. A hundred of these adults were diagnosed with autism, and 46 people did not receive a diagnosis. This gave us an opportunity to explore the subtle differences between people who receive a diagnosis and those who dont, even though they may have some other similar difficulties.
They Live In The Moment
How often do typical people fail to notice whatâs in front of their eyes because theyâre distracted by social cues or random chitchat? People on the autism spectrum truly attend to the sensory input that surrounds them.
Some see the beauty that others miss, though they pass by it every day. Many have achieved the ideal of mindfulness, even if they donât have the tools to communicate their state of mind to others.
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There Is Hope For Women With Autism
At any age, there is hope! I contributed to an article about 8 signs of autism that are usually missed. Usually, these women feel relieved to receive an autism diagnosis. It just helps them make sense of their lives. They can reevaluate their life through the autism lens.
Throughout their life, many autistic women were blamed and shamed for their behavior and their family, school staff, and medical professionals did not understand how these were autism traits that were needing support, not shame and judgment.
What Are The Tell
Autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. It can be seen in all groups of age. The Centers for Disease Control states that the disorder does not discriminate between racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Oftentimes, certain severe forms of ASD are diagnosed before the child turns two. However, high-functioning individuals may not be recognized and diagnosed until later ages in their lives.
- The level of science,
- Knowledge on autism spectrum disorder itself at the time,
- Lack of social and economic means they had,
This happens because autistic adults were not diagnosed when they were children.
Since autism spectrum disorder is still, in part, a mystery, studies generally focus on where the disorder stems from to figure out how it occurs in the first place. This has caused the focus to be on children. The adults who have never been diagnosed in their lives were partially left out in the research sphere.
However, in recent years, awareness of autism spectrum disorder in adults has increased significantly. This is due to the fact that the public is now aware of the signs and understands that a diagnosis can be made even later in life of a person.
Autism spectrum disorder impacts three main areas in an individuals life: the social aspect, communication, and their behaviors.
Since we understand autism more and more every day, we are now able to differentiate and diagnose more adults with ASD.
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How Do I Know If Im Autistic
If you are an adult female and suspect you may be on the autism spectrum, you are not alone. its important to evaluate your behaviors in light of your other diagnoses. For example, if you already have an ADHD diagnosis, your executive functioning difficulties can be attributed to that diagnosis. Thus, determining whether you could be autistic as well requires a closer look at behaviors related to social communication, need for routine, sensory differences, and logical/literal thinking.
Autism traits may also be masked to some degree by your gender socialization, as many women typically learn to hide autistic traits that would otherwise prompt a diagnostic evaluation.
Take social camouflaging or when someone on the spectrum intentionally or unintentionally mimics other peoples social behaviors to cover up their autism traits. Autistic people often use this coping strategy after experiencing negative social interactions . Social camouflage is distinct from the traditional development of social skills because the individual has no intuitive understanding of why the social norm exists.
Autism In Women: Dispelling Myths
The medical establishment has been slow to develop an accurate profile of autism in women with low support needs.
Though our knowledge of autism, especially in women, is increasing, it has been slow to make its way into the mainstream. Its why common myths like the following persist, and why we must work to raise awareness:
1. Is ADHD on the autism spectrum? No. there is a clear distinction between the two. ADHD and autism are separate neurological differences that can both exist in the same person. Scientists have suggested that the two conditions have a biological connection, which causes a high rate of comorbidity.
2. Autistic people feel little or no empathy. This is categorically untrue. Some autistic people report feeling their emotions more intensely than most. This stereotype seems more connected to the social nuance used to convey emotion/empathy than to the actual experience of it.
3. You can immediately tell if someone is autistic. There is no way to know whether someone is autistic just by looking at or talking to them. Still, many people cant accept the fact that someone who isnt obviously disabled could be on the spectrum. In fact, I often hear people say to me, You dont look autistic!
Even though we have a long way to go toward neurodiversity empowerment, I encourage potentially autistic women to explore the possibility. As our ranks grow, perhaps the worlds understanding of us will grow as well.
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Educate Yourself About Autism
New resources for understanding and living with autism appear seemingly every day.
Talk to doctors, researchers, or speech pathologists with expertise in autism to learn:
- more about autism and how it works
- whats happening in a neurodivergent brain
- how you can advocate for your teen when others dont understand or accept who they are
Read plenty of books and visit online resources, too. Here are just a few:
Be Consistent And Supportive
Autism doesnt go away or get better. It represents your teens:
Its crucial to be there for your teen as they experience not only the typical struggles of being a teen but also the added pressure to conform to neurotypical standards.
Consistency in maintaining a positive, accepting environment can be an enormous influence on the direction of their lives well past the teen years.
Helping your teen learn certain life skills or behaviors they may have difficulty mastering can also be a form of support. To build skills in these areas, you can:
- See a psychologist or psychiatrist who can help your teen work through personal challenges. They can also prescribe medications for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder , or other conditions that may affect your teens sense of personal fulfillment or be perceived as disruptive.
- See a speech pathologist to help with any communication challenges, or do speech therapy.
- See a behavioral specialist to help with routines, activities, or habits that may be disruptive to activities your teen wants to do.
- See a dietitian who may be able to help optimize your teens diet or supplement intake to reduce their experience of challenging behaviors or emotions.
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What Happened To Aspergers Syndrome
In 1944, Hans Asperger first described Aspergers syndrome in children who:
- Had strong vocabulary and language skills
- Had a distinct use of language and tone of voice
- Were socially isolated from their peers
- Performed repetitive behaviors
In 2000, the American Psychological Association included AS in the umbrella term of pervasive developmental disorders alongside autistic disorder associated with these three main difficulties: communication, social interaction, and restricted interests. AS was both related to and separate from autism at that time.
The newest version of the APAs Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, published in 2013, does not include Aspergers. Instead, it uses the term autistic spectrum disorder , which encompasses several distinct disorders, including AS. People previously diagnosed with AS received a new diagnosis of ASD. The APA believed this change could help those with AS more easily receive community and school services.
The clinical use of the term Aspergers has mostly gone away however, it is still frequently used by people previously diagnosed with AS and their families. Many believe it is a much better description for their condition than the general term autism. Many still call themselves Aspies. Today, many lay people still use the term Aspergers, while medical professionals do not.
Accept Them For Who They Are
Regardless of the message many parents of autistic teens get from the people and organizations around them, there is nothing wrong with your teen. They dont need to be fixed.
Instead, make your teen feel loved. Include them in all your family events. Get involved in their favorite activities.
Respect their boundaries, whether by letting them have their own friends and hobbies or by giving them privacy when they ask for it.
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