The Basics2023-12-05T16:04:53+00:00

Autism – The Basics

Autism is diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but we reject the notion of being ‘disordered’ and will be using the terms autism or autistic only. Autism is complex, not least because it encompasses a wide range of differences, making each person’s experience unique. Autistic people experience the world in a different way to non-autistic peers and this may be most pronounced in the areas of communication, social interaction and sensory processing. You can make an autistic person’s life much easier by learning as much as you can about being autistic and adapting the environment around that person to be more comfortable.

As the term “spectrum” signifies, there is a wide variation in challenges and strengths for autistic people, which in turn means a wide variety in support needs.

All autistic people will benefit if they are surrounded and supported by people who understand them and make accommodations or adjustments, just as that autistic person will have been doing all their life to navigate a world most people view through a purely neurotypical lens.

Statistics on health and social inequalities are not pretty. But they are also not accurate because there are very many adults who have either not yet been recognised as autistic or are not on any records so do not appear in statistics. There are many autistic accountants, teachers, engineers, doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, researchers, statisticians, artists, IT consultants, games developers out there, not appearing in statistics and perhaps not confident to be ‘out’ to their colleagues. We hope increased understanding and representation will change that.

Currently society doesn’t really know what constitutes a happy life for autistic people. All the measures for happiness and quality of life are based on a neurotypical idea of what that looks like and it may not be applicable. Explore this website and read some of the many books we recommend by neurodivergent authors to find out more about what that may look like so that you can spread the word and help cultivate a more inclusive and supportive society. Ideally we’d like to see all autistic young people recognised before they transition to secondary school, but this is still not the norm for those brought up as girls. And naturally, if you’re autistic you have been from the moment you were born, and will be all your life, so the world has many more autistic adults in it than children!

AGN Resources

How autistic girls present differently.

The topic of autism and girls has been much discussed in recent years, but while many are aware that autistic girls may present differently, there is widespread misunderstanding about exactly how. This is a huge issue because autistic girls (and those who present in the same way) are being missed and outcomes for autistic females are particularly poor.

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What do we mean by Identity First Language?

For some years now, person first language has been taught as the ‘correct’ and respectful way to refer to people who are disabled. Thus, ‘people with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled people’. This is often the way professionals are trained. However, some disabled communities now reject this terminology and prefer identity first language.

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Hyperacusis and Misophonia

Many neurodivergent people experience differences in processing sound. In shared environments, this can pose challenges.

In busy environments, this can sometimes be debilitating, and can lead to Sensory Overload and a fight, flight, freeze, fawn, flop response. There are very obvious impacts which may become apparent in school for young people who are neurodivergent.

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Most people know when they are feeling a certain way.

They can identify that certain feelings in their bodies indicate certain emotions. They would recognise if they had butterflies in their stomach and would understand that this meant they were feeling nervous. But what if you didn’t know what you were feeling and why? Imagine the confusion you would feel.

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Unexplained joint pain is a very frequent experience for neurodivergent people.

This may be accompanied by hypermobile joints too, and other symptoms such as fainting spells/seizures, gastric issues, breathing issues, dizziness and a racing heart beat. The pain and discomfort can be persistent, permanent or intermittent. It can be that there is no obvious ‘cause’ found.

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There are a lot of myths out there about autism, many of which stem from research done when autism was first recognised. You’re probably already aware of many of the myths, considering that a lot of them influence how autism is perceived and understood by the majority of society today.

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Anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences at points in their life. It is common to feel anxious when faced with a threat.

However, when this anxiety gets out of control and starts to impact on an individual’s day-to-day functioning, it may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

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Disordered or restrictive eating is often the first sign of autism in a person who does not have their neurodivergence recognised.

It is VITAL to seek medical attention/supervision if a person is restricting their food or fluid intake to a dangerous extent.

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Sleep problems are common among neurodivergent individuals, and there are many reasons for this.

One of the main factors could be a sleep disorder, such as Delayed Sleep Wake Disorder (DSWD), which is a type of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder. DSWD causes individuals to have a naturally delayed urge to sleep, making them fall asleep much later than others.

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If your child requires special educational support due to their special educational needs (SEN), they may require additional assistance during their time in nursery, school, or college. It is mandatory for every educational institution to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your child can access the available education.

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Autism and ADHD very often co-exist.

Life as an AuDHD-er is constantly trying to find a balance to satisfy opposing needs. And those needs are changing all the time, depending on the environment, the day and the chapter of life.

[LEARN MORE]

Recommended books

Nurturing Your Autistic Young Person
Different not less
The Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic - Siena Castellon
What works for Autistic Children - Dr. Luke Beardon
Supporting Spectacular Girls: A Practical Guide to Developing Autistic Girls' Wellbeing and Self-Esteem - Helen Clarke

Additional resources and information

Recommended Video

Neurodivergent Lives

Related podcast 

From our blog

Useful links

Monotropism a theory of autism developed by autistic people
https://monotropism.org

NeuroClastic Change | Divergently
https://neuroclastic.com/

Understanding the spectrum
https://the-art-of-autism.com/understanding-the-spectrum-a-comic-strip-explanation/

Ann’s Autism Blog
http://annsautism.blogspot.com/

Helpful forms to download

Student / School Passport

A student passport can include the young person’s needs and worries and how teachers can assist them with these. Co-produced by the child or young person, their parents, and the school. The document is then kept centrally, to be available to all teachers and support staff.

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