Highly Sensitive Person And Autism: What Is The Difference
Highly sensitive person and autism. On the surface they look very similar, but there are differences! In this blog I will happily explain what these differences are.
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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
For at least ten years I thought I was a highly sensitive person. And thats actually not all that strange, because the media portrays a very narrow image of autism. If you look at some of the more known characters, like Rain Man and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, youd say only white cis males are autistic. Characters like these are often seen as geniuses and non-speakers.
Autism in real life is completely different from what you usually see. Hence, thats why a lot of the traits are unknown to people. Moreover, thats why a lot of people dont know what exactly it entails and identify as a highly sensitive person. On the other hand, masculine people may think they are autistic, while in fact they are highly sensitive. In this blog Id like to give some clarification!
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated
ASD is most often a life-long condition. Both children and adults with autism benefit from behavioral interventions or therapies that can teach new skills to address the core deficits of autism and to reduce the core symptoms. Every child and adult with autism is unique. For this reason, the treatment plan is individualized to meet specific needs. It is best to begin interventions as soon as possible, so the benefits of therapy can continue on throughout the course of life.
Many people with ASD often have additional medical conditions, such as and feeding issues, and sleep disturbances. Treatment can involve behavioral therapy, medications or both.
Early intensive behavioral treatments involves the entire family and possibly a team of professionals. As your child ages and develops, treatment may be modified to cater to their specific needs.
During adolescence, children benefit from transition services that promote skills of independence essential in adulthood. The focus at that point is on employment opportunities and job skill training.
How Can I Help A Friend With Autism
People with ASD have a very wide array of signs and symptoms. Some people with ASD do not feel that they have a disorder and don’t want to change. They’re proud of who they are and they want to be accepted, even though they may have different strengths and weaknesses than most other people.
All people deserve respect. But people with ASD may be teased, , or left out because they’re different. Bullying and teasing are never the right way to treat other people, but it may be hard to be a friend with someone who has ASD.
People with ASD often don’t understand playful jokes or sarcasm. You may need to be very clear and factual when you communicate with someone who has ASD.
Try to be patient and kind. Remember how hard it might be for the person with ASD to understand how to be a . Stand up for classmates who are . Tell adults, so they can help protect kids who are bullied.
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
How Autism And Down Syndrome Are Similar
Meanwhile, they both share some traits.
- Developmental delays
- Need for love and support
People with both conditions will have delays. Learning skills like talking, riding a bike, doing chores, and managing money might take longer. Thus, its important for people to be patient. Never blame someone for needing more time. Setting too-high expectations isnt fair to them. Instead, meet them where they are.
Also, independence will be harder. They might not be able to be fully independent. Instead of pushing them into something they arent ready for, help them. Find whats realistic and not too stressful. Help them learn at their own pace.
Above all, people with both conditions need love and support. It isnt always easy to be disabled. Thus, they need to be surrounded by helpful people. Its important to give them a safe environment where they can learn without feeling ashamed.
How Can I Improve My Social Skills For Autism
Parents can help to improve social skills in autistic children in these five ways:
The Difference Between Saying A Child With Autism Vs Autistic Child
In the autism community, one of the most fiercely debated topics is how to refer to people on the spectrum. Heres the difference between saying a child with autism vs. autistic child. While some prefer the term people with autism, others lean towards autistic person. Then there are those who remain indifferent, and prefer to take a tomato ; tomato view of things. More than simply conveying meaning, words convey sentiment and ultimately shape how people are perceived.
As a parent and someone whose life has been impacted by autism, youre likely to have your own thoughts on the topic. The way you refer to your child, as either a child with autism or an autistic child, says something about how you see your childs condition.
Unpacking the term a child with autism
Autism is not something which defines our special children. This is the same thinking that would be applied when describing someone with any other illness or disability. A good example is when referring to a cancer sufferer, youd say someone with cancer. This acknowledges that the person is more than their illness, and places emphasis on the fact that first and foremost theyre a person.
Unpacking the term an autistic child
What does the research say?
What can we learn from all this?
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Do Treatment Options Differ For Aspergers And Autism
Neither what was previously diagnosed as Aspergers nor autism is a medical condition that needs to be treated.
Those diagnosed with autism are considered neurodivergent. Autistic behaviors arent considered whats socially typical. But that doesnt mean that autism indicates theres anything wrong with you.
Whats most important is that you or someone in your life whos been diagnosed with autism know that theyre loved, accepted, and supported by the people around them.
Not everyone in the autism community agrees that autistic people dont need medical treatment.
Theres an ongoing debate between those who see autism as a that needs medical treatment and those who see autism treatment in the form of securing disability rights, like fair employment practices and healthcare coverage.
Here are some
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 .
What Are The Differences Between The Highly Sensitive Person Trait And Autism
Now that weve discussed the similarities, lets have a look at the differences. There are certain traits that people with autism do have, which highly sensitive people dont. In order to demonstrate these traits, I applied the DSM-5. To meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD according to the DSM-5, a person must have persistent deficits in each of the criterial areas:
Similarities Of Autism And Aspergers
As mentioned before, Aspergers is now a part of autism spectrum disorders.
However, back when the syndrome had its own diagnosis, the symptoms were really similar to that of autism. The following were the similar symptoms:
- Difficulty in interpreting verbal and non-verbal language
- Difficulty in understanding gestures, facial expressions, jokes, etc.
- Difficulty in understanding others thoughts and feelings
- Difficulty in expressing emotions
- Depth of knowledge in that area of interest
- Sensitivity to certain sounds, textures, smells, tastes, etc.
Why I Think That Highly Sensitive People Are Neurodivergent
Highly sensitive people and autistic people have some things in common. During my research I found out that a lot of people categorize being a highly sensitive person as a character trait. I personally disagree with that. In my opinion both autism and high sensitivity fall under the neurodiversity term.
Neurodiversity really just means that there are differences between brains. Moreover, there are brains that process information in different ways and use different ways of thinking and learning. For example, the autistic brain is one of them, but , dyslexia, dyscalculia and Gilles de la Tourette also fall under the neurodiversity umbrella. Therefore, I also consider being a highly sensitive person to also fall under this term, as the brains of HSPs also process information and stimuli in a different way than the normal neurotypical brain would.
Summary Autism Vs Adhd
Autism and ADHD are two psychiatric problems predominantly seen among the pediatric patients. In spite of them sharing many common clinical features, the difference between autism and ADHD can be identified by carefully assessing the patients interest in repetitive movements and patterns, which can be regarded as the hall mark feature of an autistic child.
Characteristics Of Autism And Aspergers
Characteristics of Aspergers vary from individual to individual. However, there are certain symptoms shown by an individual that makes the diagnosis possible. These are:
- Persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction
- Restricted and repetitive behaviors
Aspergers Syndrome is no longer a stand alone diagnosis with publishing of DSM-V. The characteristics may seem really similar to that of autism.
Here is a summary of diagnostic criteria used of Aspergers Syndrome:
- Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication
- Lack of interest in taking part in activities
- Tendency to be alone
- Limited interest in certain topics
- Strict adherence to routines
- Not having delayed language or cognitive development
Aside from not having delayed language or cognitive development, all symptoms can also be seen in individuals with autism.
Signs And Symptoms Of Asd
People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.
Autism Spectrum Disorder In The Dsm
The DSM-V defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests , present since early childhood, to the extent that these limit and impair everyday functioning. All these criteria must be met for a formal diagnosis of ASD. This is why people who have some but not all of the features and people who have learned to manage their autism in a familiar environment may have difficulty getting a formal diagnosis. These people will often benefit from some of the same strategies that are helpful for autistic people. For this reason, interventions should be based on an assessment of a persons strengths and difficulties rather than the diagnosis.
What If My Friend Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
Some people with ASD do not feel that they have a disorder and don’t want to change. They’re proud of who they are and they want to be accepted, even though they may have different strengths and weaknesses than most other people.
All people deserve respect. But kids with ASD may be teased, , or left out because they’re different. Bullying and teasing are never the right way to treat other people, but it may be hard to be a friend with someone who has ASD.
Kids with ASD often don’t understand playful jokes. You may need to be very clear when you communicate with someone who has ASD.
Try to be patient and kind. Remember how hard it might be for the person with ASD to understand how to be a . Stand up for classmates who are bullied. Tell adults, so they can help protect kids who are bullied.
What Is The Difference Between Autism And Autistic
They are one and the same. The Autism Spectrum Disorder is the clinical definition for autism. Some people chose to be referred to as an autistic person, while others prefer to be referred to a person with autism.
One of the main things I like to explain is that people with autism have varied abilities and character traits, theres not one single experience of autism.
I have Aspergers syndrome and that means Im sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.
I would play with numbers in a way that other kids would play with their friends.
People on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.
Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.
Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travellers from the distant, distant past. And if, by being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.
Some People Use Other Names For Autism
There are other names for autism used by some people, such as:
- autism spectrum disorder the medical name for autism
- autism spectrum condition used instead of ASD by some people
- Asperger’s used by some people to describe autistic people with average or above average intelligence
Unlike some people with autism, people with Asperger’s do not have a learning disability.
Some people call this “high-functioning” autism.
Doctors do not diagnose people with Asperger’s anymore.
But if you were diagnosed with it before, this will stay as your diagnosis.
Diagnosis And Risk Factors:
Autism is most often diagnosed before the age of 3 years. Diagnosis is done using screening tests such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2, and by clinical evaluation of the person. Women who have German measles while pregnant are also more likely to have an autistic child. Boys are more likely to have autism as are premature babies and babies born to older women.
What About The Terms ‘high Functioning’ And ‘low
I was at an event recently where lots of kids were running around and met a mum who told me her son had an autism diagnosis but was “very high functioning, almost normal”.
Even leaving the whole “normal” discussion aside I wasn’t sure how to reply in a way that was respectful to both her child and mine.
The terms high functioning and low functioning are shorthand terms that are often used but are light on details about an individual and mean very little.
The current diagnostic model for autism determines levels of support required in specific areas, not levels of functioning. There is no diagnosis of low- or high-functioning autism.
Mr Bonnello says these terms make a lot of autistic people cringe.
“It’s very rare that I meet an autistic person that does like the phrase high functioning,” he says.
“That’s for two reasons, because it obviously implies that there’s a low functioning and I wouldn’t use the term low functioning because it is an insult.
“The other reason is because high functioning often gets interpreted as no additional needs â like autistic but got away with it.
“There’s a quote I heard somewhere that low-functioning autism means your strengths are ignored and high-functioning autism means that your weaknesses are ignored.”
The spectrum is not a line with low functioning at one end and high functioning at the other, and importantly how we all communicate and cope with the world changes from day to day and depending on the circumstances.
What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 20 years ago the formed the Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by and other participating organizations.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Previously Called Autism And Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the following:
- Difficulties in social communication differences, including verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Deficits in social interactions.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities and sensory problems
Many of those with ASD can have delayed or absence of language development, intellectual disabilities, poor motor coordination and attention weaknesses.
Don’t Perpetuate Stigma And Misunderstanding Around Autism
That said, there’s one thing you should never do.
Taking any of the words used to describe autism to say something negative about a person is incredibly disrespectful. You are taking something that should be celebrated and making it an insult.
The same goes for words previously used to describe intellectual disability getting thrown around as insults.
These words carry with them a history of misunderstanding and stigma. And if you use them in this way, you are helping perpetuate that.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed
There are no laboratory tests to determine ASD. However, certain healthcare providers receive specific training and can do screenings and evaluations if needed and who might ask parents or teachers to record observations. These providers might include specialized physicians, psychologists and speech-language pathologists.
History Of Autism Diagnoses
Doctors used to think of Aspergers Syndrome as a separate condition from autism. Because Aspergers is associated with less severe symptoms and good language and cognitive skills, doctors issued this diagnosis to high-functioning children for decades.
Aspergers was identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in 1944. He noticed that some children with autism had better-developed social and motor skills and fewer speech problems than their peers. He identified these children as having a condition similar to but undoubtedly unique from autism.
This disorder came to be known as Aspergers, and it first appeared in the 1994 edition of the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .
Today, children experiencing developmental delays and symptoms of autism are instead more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder . ASD is a broad category of developmental disorders that share some symptoms.
Many people believe this change is beneficial. An ASD diagnosis is more inclusive and reflects the fact that autism develops with a range of symptoms.
Intervention For Autism And Aspergers
Interventions and treatments for Autism/Aspergers Syndrome should include various approaches and be tailored to the individuals needs.
It is important to involve professionals, as well as parents and teachers.
Early intervention addresses core symptoms of AS/ASD and tackles poor communication skills and restricted and repetitive behaviors.
The following methods are used in the interventions for AS/ASD:
- Social skills training
- Ability to play with language
- Tendency to follow rules
Restricted Or Repetitive Behaviors Or Interests
People with ASD have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual. These behaviors or interests set ASD apart from conditions defined by only problems with social communication and interaction.
Examples of restricted or repetitive interests and behaviors related to ASD can include:
- Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Plays with toys the same way every time
- Is focused on parts of objects
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
- Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
Autism Exists On A Spectrum So Whats A Spectrum
Spectrum means autism affects different people in different ways.
Autism can significantly and visibly impact every area of your life, or you may be high-functioning, and that impact is less obvious.
So autism isnt like a light switch, which is either on or off. Its more like a dimmer switch, with many variations of brightness.
That means no two people with autism are exactly alike.
Heres another way of thinking about what that means: imagine each of the bullet points listed above has a volume control attached to it.
Each person with autism has their own set of volume dials, some turned up high, some turned down low.
For example: a student may be significantly affected in how they respond to the senses, so that volume control is turned up to a 9 or 10. But their autism affects their empathy to a lesser extent, and that dial is turned to a 3 or 4.
The result is every person with autism has their own set of dials, uniquely describing their individual needs and preferences.
And these will be different from everybody else.
Autism Is Not An Illness
Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way from other people.
It’s something you’re born with or first appears when you’re very young.
If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life.
Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a “cure”. But some people need support to help them with certain things.
Key Difference Autism Vs Mental Retardation
The key difference between autism and mental retardation is that the autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts where the intellectual functioning is normal. In contrast, mental retardation or intellectual disability is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significantly impaired intellectual and adaptive functioning.
How Is Autism Treated
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can substantially improve those symptoms. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the individual. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Early behavioral/educational interventions have been very successful in many children with ASD. In these interventions therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as applied behavioral analysis, which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones. In addition, family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.