Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder including Asperger Syndrome
People affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder typically experience challenges with social understanding, social behaviour and communication. It may be difficult to correctly interpret the non-verbal behaviour of others leading to misunderstandings and sometimes, loneliness. Struggles with eye contact, inappropriate body language and a discomfort with physical affection are further traits.
People with ASD may appear aloof and indifferent to other people and may also have difficulty initiating and maintaining a natural flow in conversations. Friendships are typically a challenge. Many people on the ASD spectrum spend time alone because they may seem odd to others or because interactions can be so taxing. That does not mean that they don’t have a need for interactions at all, it’s just that the type of interactions people on the ASD spectrum feel comfortable with, may be limited.
Some members of this group may display behaviours such as hand flapping or repetitive behaviours and interests, with a fair amount of inflexibility in routines and habits. Another defining feature often encountered is strong reactions to sensory experiences – for instance a strong fascination with a certain texture or conversely, an aversity to another sensory experience such as loud noises or busy environments.
In the last few years Asperger Syndrome has been included in Autism Spectrum Disorder, and indeed, not only are symptoms on a spectrum but they may be quite varied and present their own challenges to every individual. The diagnosis is typically made by a specially trained professional such as a psychologist, paediatrician or occupational therapist.
A treatment programme is developed specifically for every person’s unique needs which may include developing skills such as social skills and communication, addressing emotional challenges such as anxiety and depression, and making the most of strengths. Compassionate support is also provided for family members and other’s affected by the disorder as loved ones are often affected by grief, sadness, bewilderment and a need for guidance about the way forward.