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What is Autism?

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#16 [Permalink] Posted on 12th March 2014 09:36
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#17 [Permalink] Posted on 12th March 2014 10:04
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#18 [Permalink] Posted on 13th March 2014 18:05
Difficulty with social communication

For people with autistic spectrum disorders, 'body language' can appear just as foreign as if people were speaking ancient Greek.

People with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. They can find it difficult to use or understand:

facial expressions or tone of voice jokes and sarcasm
common phrases and sayings; an example might be the phrase 'It's cool', which people often say when they think that something is good, but strictly speaking, means that it's a bit cold.


Some people with autism may not speak, or have fairly limited speech. They will usually understand what other people say to them, but prefer to use alternative means of communication themselves, such as sign language or visual symbols.

Others will have good language skills, but they may still find it hard to understand the give-and-take nature of conversations, perhaps repeating what the other person has just said (this is known as echolalia) or talking at length about their own interests.

It helps if other people speak in a clear, consistent way and give people with autism time to process what has been said to them.
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#19 [Permalink] Posted on 17th March 2014 19:07
Difficulty with social interaction

Socialising doesn't come naturally - we have to learn it.

People with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people's emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

They may:

- Not understand the unwritten social rules which most of us pick up without thinking: they may stand too close to another person for example, or start an inappropriate subject of conversation

- Appear to be insensitive because they have not recognised how someone else is feeling

- Prefer to spend time alone rather than seeking out the company of other people

- Not seek comfort from other people
appear to behave 'strangely' or inappropriately, as it is not always easy for them to express feelings, emotions or needs.

Difficulties with social interaction can mean that people with autism find it hard to form friendships: some may want to interact with other people and make friends, but may be unsure how to go about this.
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#20 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd March 2014 09:21
Difficulty with social imagination

We have trouble working out what other people know. We have more difficulty guessing what other people are thinking.

Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our immediate daily routine. Difficulties with social imagination mean that people with autism find it hard to:

- understand and interpret other people's thoughts, feelings and actions

- predict what will happen next, or what could happen next

- understand the concept of danger, for example that running on to a busy road poses a threat to them

- engage in imaginative play and activities: children with autism may enjoy some imaginative play but prefer to act out the same scenes each time

- prepare for change and plan for the future
cope in new or unfamiliar situations.


Difficulties with social imagination should not be confused with a lack of imagination. Many people with autism are very creative and may be, for example, accomplished artists, musicians or writers.
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#21 [Permalink] Posted on 28th March 2014 20:38
One in 68 kids has autism: US study
27 March 2014



One in 68 US children has autism, a 30 percent rise over the last estimate released in 2012, health authorities said Thursday.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised concern and sparked calls for early screening, as well as more research and investment.

Autism is a developmental disorder that has no known cause or cure. It affects people of all races with a range of difficulties in social, emotional and communication skills.

Recent research suggests the disorder may originate in the womb, and could be linked to defects that arise during prenatal brain growth.

The "proportion of children with autism and higher IQ (is) on the rise," the CDC said in a statement.

Previously, as many as one in 88 US children were known to have autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.

The findings were based on diagnoses of eight-year-olds at 11 US sites in 2010.

The prevalence of autism varied widely, from one in 175 children in Alabama to one in 45 children in New Jersey.

The data continued to show that autism is five times more common in boys than in girls. In the United States, one in 42 boys is diagnosed with autism, compared to one in 189 girls.

- Reasons unclear -

The reasons for the rise were unclear, but the CDC said the criteria used to diagnose autism spectrum disorder and the methods used to collect data have not changed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement that said the CDC report shows the "urgent need" for better screening and intervention strategies.

"It's critical that we as a society do not become numb to these numbers," said Susan Hyman, chair of the AAP autism subcommittee.

"They remind us of the work we need to do in educating clinicians and parents in effective interventions for all children, including those with developmental disabilities."

The CDC report also found that most children were diagnosed after age four, although the disorder can be identified by age two.

Symptoms of developmental delays at age one could include not saying "mama" or "dada," not crawling, or not being able to point or wave, the CDC said on its website.

By age two, signs could include not following instructions, being unable to say two-word phrases like "drink milk," not knowing what to do with common objects like a fork and spoon, or losing skills the child once had.

"Community leaders, health professionals, educators and childcare providers should use these data to ensure children with ASD are identified as early as possible and connected to the services they need," said Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the House Global Health Subcommittee and co-chairman of the bipartisan Coalition on Autism Research and Education, called the CDC report "deeply disturbing" and an "ominous trend."

"The bottom line: more children, more families are struggling with autism and the federal government must do more to help."
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#22 [Permalink] Posted on 6th April 2014 20:16
World Autism Awareness Day: Just because a person has a different way of communicating, it does not mean that they are impaired

The myriad of difficulties faced by autistic people are not simply as a result of autism, but are often due to the lack of understanding among others
By LUKE BEARDON
Wednesday 02 April 2014


Autism is possibly one of the most misunderstood cognitive states in modern day society. Over the years the representation (or mis-representation) of individuals within the film industry and within the media has perpetuated many myths associated with the autism population. Films such as Rain Man have certainly raised the awareness of autism, in as much as most people within society will have heard of autism and many will have an opinion as to what it means. Sadly, the reality is that very few have a good understanding of what being autistic actually means to the individual and their families.

Autism is still regarded very much within a medical model - diagnostic criteria and texts related to autism are rife with negative terminology such as 'disorder' and 'impairment'. Rarely do we see a celebration of the fascinating way in which the autistic mind processes information, the abilities that are often found within the autistic population, the value that the autistic person can bring to society. Rarely do we see a social model applied to the autism community.

Rather than assuming that an autistic way of thinking causes problems and is somehow inferior, the social model would urge us to recognise that the myriad of difficulties faced by autistic people are not simply as a result of autism, but are often a result of the lack of understanding among the majority of the rest of the population. That the barriers faced on a daily basis by the individual are not insurmountable, and it is the duty of all involved to circumnavigate those issues with appropriate adjustments, support and understanding in order for the individual to reach their potential.

We are led to believe that autistic people are impaired in their functioning - this is simply not true. Just because a person has a different social skill set, or a different way of communicating to the majority, does not automatically mean that they are impaired. I would argue that autistic people have their own, valid, skill set and that if the Predominant Neurotype (i.e. the non-autistic population) were to make the effort to engage with autistic people with an understanding of that skill set then the imbalanced view of autism may begin to change.

We live in a world that loves to categorise and pigeon-hole. It is impossible (and morally reprehensible) to assume that having an identification of autism means anything other than that the person is autistic. Being autistic does not automatically mean that the person is any less capable as a person than anyone else - in some cases, quite the opposite is true. Nor does it mean that any one autistic person could or should be compared to anyone else.

Each individual with autism is exactly that - an individual. She or he will have their own unique skills profile, strengths, weaknesses, wishes and dreams. It is time that society recognises the potential value of being autistic, and the necessity of learning to understand each individual as a person in their own right.

Dr Luke Beardon is a senior lecturer in autism at Sheffield Hallam University's Autism Centre
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#23 [Permalink] Posted on 7th April 2014 08:46
I was diagnosed with autism as an adult - it's not just children who are affected
Johnny Dean

Adult autism is little understood and often goes undiagnosed. On World Autism Awareness Day the government's new strategy needs to tackle this.

In 2009, MP Cheryl Gillan put forward a bill in parliament. The idea behind it was to ensure more support was available for adults with autistic conditions. Up to this point, children and their families were being given help, but children grow up. Even autistic children. What then?

That same year the Autism Act became a reality, and I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. I was 38 years old. As a child of the 70s, autism was practically unheard of. Any withdrawn or "difficult" behaviour on my part was generally seen as naughtiness. My lack of people skills was put down to me being antisocial, mean, or aloof.

There must be a multitude of adults out there who have some form of autism but remain undiagnosed. Confused, isolated and quite often suicidal. I know, because for much of my life that is how I felt.

Since the mid-90s, awareness of autistic conditions such as Asperger's syndrome, high-functioning autism and pervasive developmental disorder has grown, but not nearly enough to say they are fully understood. It has been disturbing for me, since being diagnosed, to discover how little people know.

Adults seeking diagnosis are often faced with a struggle. Not being taken seriously seems to be a common occurrence. I experienced more than just a few quizzical looks and furrowed brows when I asked to be assessed. Many people simply give up at this point. I was even asked outright, by a consultant psychologist, why I was seeking diagnosis when I was an adult. Apparently, this happens a lot.

It didn't help that much of the assessment process seemed designed specifically for children. This became even more exasperating when my mother's faded memories of my childhood were bought into the mix, creating a very confused picture. The team assessing me were concentrating solely on my childhood, the very distant past, rather than me in the here and now. Surely there is a better way to accommodate adults?

It took well over a year to get diagnosed, partly because only one place in the southeast had the facilities to do it. But I am glad I persevered. It means that my GP is aware of my condition. It meant I was able to get cognitive behavioural therapy to cope with the challenges I face every day. It has enabled me to understand who I am. But more than anything, diagnosis was a massive relief.

As far as support goes, where I live in south London, things are better compared with five years ago when I was first diagnosed. But at the same time I have never been contacted or approached by any of the services in my area - I had to make myself known. This can be a problem when it comes to people with autism. If you leave it to us, it might not happen.

Since 2009, most local authorities have set up schemes for adults seeking a formal diagnosis. Which is fine, but then what? Will a freshly diagnosed adult get the support they need? And what about autistic children who have grown up? Has the Autism Act done anything to improve these people's lives?

Here are some depressing statistics. Of all adults with autism, 70% feel they are not receiving the help they need; 36% said they need help to wash and dress, but only 7% get this support from social services; and 53% say they want help to find work, but only 10% get the support to do so.

Last year the National Autistic Society started a campaign, Push for Action, to improve support for adults with autism. In October, I joined other campaigners in delivering a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding more action from the government, including money for new services, better training for staff such as GPs and care assessors, and more to be done to raise public awareness of autism.

Things are slowly getting better, especially with regard to awareness, but solid support is still lacking. I hope that the government's revised autism strategy, which will be published today - World Autism Awareness Day - will tackle this and actually improve the lives of adults with autistic conditions as well as those of their families.

In this day and age, I hate to think that anybody else would have to go through the time-consuming and frustrating process that I experienced. Autism is a real and serious condition, and adults have it too.
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#24 [Permalink] Posted on 7th April 2014 15:50

I was watching a documentary on autism and it showed that people with autism are incredibly good at finding Wally in 'Where's Wally.' 

This is because people with autism focus on smaller/finer details which makes it easier for them to identify things.

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#25 [Permalink] Posted on 7th April 2014 16:18
Malak wrote:
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Yes It was very interesting, it was interesting to learn that autism has always been around but it was never identified. As for less girls being diagnosed then boys, after speaking to a mother of an autistic son and daughter, the autism was masked more by the daughter then the boy. Therefore autism being diagnosed more in boys than girls.
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#26 [Permalink] Posted on 16th April 2014 14:48
Tackling autism in the Middle East

Treatment for autism in the region has progressed, but lack of awareness and support services remains a challenge.

Doha, Qatar -In many ways, it resembles a normal classroom - teachers, students, and all the materials you would expect at a school. Subjects include music and physical education, with some students studying additional topics such as computer science and Islamic law.

But this classroom is somewhat different. Class sizes are smaller, with one teacher for every two students. The students themselves are a bit different, too.Children at the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs in Qatar have autism, a developmental disorder characterised by various abnormal behaviours.

"A lot of professionals say 'an autistic child'. Here, we say a 'child with autism'," said Abdullah Itani, a trainer at the centre. "The child comes first."

The hallmarks of autism arean impaired ability to communicate and socialise, and a narrow range of repetitive behaviours and activities.

The Shafallah Center, opened in 1999, has graduateda number of students who now work in banks, post offices and telecom companies, as well as operating a kiosk in Doha's Villagio Mall."We try to teach the child to be adaptable to any environment, and many of them enter the workforce," Itani said. "Our goal is for students to graduate from the centre and become happy members of society."

The WHO said the global median rate of autism prevalence has been estimated at 62 per 10,000, although some studies have placed it substantially higher. And for the Middle East, it may be an even bigger concern.

'Complex emergencies'

Autism is one of many mental disorders that can be affected by living in a volatile environment - which is the case in much of the Middle East."Available scientific evidence suggests that various factors, both genetic and environmental, contribute to the onset of autism spectrum disorders by influencing early brain development," saidKhaled Saeed, a regional adviser for the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean offices."Rates of mental disorder are significantly higher in countries with complex emergencies."

"For example, 37.4 percent of Iraqi schoolchildren were estimated to be suffering from mental disorders; 54.4 percent of Palestinian boys and 46.5 percent of Palestinian girls were estimated to have emotional and behavioural disorders."

Although autism-specific statistics on the Middle East are lacking, WHO estimates place the 12-month prevalence of mental disorders for the region between 11-40 percent, well above the global average of 4.3-26.4 percent.

Saeed added that the gap between the care needed for mental health issues and what is available is wider in poorer countries than in their affluent counterparts."Autism spectrum disorders impose a huge emotional and economic burden on families. Caring for children with these disorders is demanding, especially where access to services and support is inadequate,"Saeed said.

Services are lacking in many more affluent Middle Easterncountries as well.

Fast expansion

In the United Arab Emirates, theDubai Autism Center has helped autistic children in the regionsince its establishment in 2001.

"When the centre first opened, there was no perception of what autism was, total ignorance," said Sara Ahmed Baker, head of the community service unit at the centre. "There were children diagnosed incorrectly as mentally retarded, not being diagnosed, characterised as naughty at school because of their behaviour, or kept from society because of a positive diagnosis."

The centre has diagnosed 110 individuals with autismthis year, a number that has grown by almost 20 children each year.

Since treatment can help individuals with autism lead fuller lives, Baker says the more parents know about autism, the more likely they are to seek a proper diagnosis for their child. "The awareness is there now - just having parents interested in autism is a success," Baker said.

By the end of 2003, the Dubai Autism Center had 36 individuals on its books. It now runs at full capacity with 53 students, but still falls short of the needs of the community, with more than 200 children on its waiting list.

Baker said families that can afford it often seek therapy abroad, or through private clinics in the UAE - centres that charge 55,000 ($15,000) to 190,000 dirhams ($52,000) for 10 months."We can't make parents wait three to six months for us to even see the child, especially when we tell them early diagnosis can make a difference," she told Al Jazeera.

The centre has reduced its wait timefor diagnosisto two months, which compares favourably with many countries in the Western world. The wait in the United Kingdom for diagnosis is six months to a year, while it's a full year in Canada, according to Baker. And even then, she said, it can take another three years to start treatment in many Western countries.

"We've had parents from the UK, for example, tell us that we're better than the services in the UK," Baker said. "But for us it's not enough to be better than the UK or some other country, because it's about serving everyone's needs."

But Baker said Western countries do have an edge in the presence of qualified professionals. It is expensive to attract those professionals to the region and, combined with a lack of education programmes in the field, is one of the major reasons for the dearth of support services.

Stumbling blocks

The problem is even more pronounced in unstable, impoverished Egypt.

The Egyptian Autistic Society was founded in 1999, but its founder says it struggles to find staff and must also contend with a legal void regarding autism."No university in Egypt teaches autism," said Dahlia Soliman, the founder and president of the organisation. "Cairo Medical School only has one paragraph on autism in the book they use."

The society has set up a partnership with Helwan University that will see an increasing number of students with training in autism, working for them, but it still falls woefully short of the demands of an autistic population that Soliman estimated at more than one million.

To compound the problem, Soliman told Al Jazeera: "There is no legal recognition of autism - that means no military exemptions, no legal right for us to be in schools, and no legal backup for us."

Legal support is available for those with autism in the UAE and Qatar, with laws governing the care ofspecial-needschildren.Baker said private schools in the UAE have been doing well in their approaches to autism, and public schools are improving. Last year, the Dubai Autism Centre trained a number of public schools in how to deal with students with the condition.

"Not everyone can be mainstreamed, though," said Baker. "Some may disturb other students when in a classroom setting, and many need extra therapy outside the classroom."
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#27 [Permalink] Posted on 5th May 2014 14:48
Sensory Sensitivities

Many people with anautism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty processing everyday sensory information such as sounds, sights and smells. This is usually called having sensory integration difficulties, or sensory sensitivity. It can have a profound effect on a person's life.

Here, we look at:

How our senses work

Our central nervous system (brain) processes all the sensory information we receive and helps us to organise, prioritise and understand the information. We then respond throughthoughts, feelings, motor responses (behaviour) or a combination of these.

We have receptors all over our bodies that pick up sensory information, or 'stimuli'. Our hands and feet contain the most receptors. Most of the time, we process sensory information automatically, without needing to think about it much.

People with sensory integration difficulties - including many people with an ASD - havedifficulty processing everyday sensory information.

People who struggle to deal with all this information are likely to become stressed or anxious, and possibly feel physical pain. This can result inchallenging behaviour.

If I get sensory overload then I just shut down; you get what's known as fragmentation...it's weird, like being tuned into 40 TV channels.

Our seven senses

We have seven senses:

sight
sound
touch
taste
smell
balance ('vestibular')
body awareness ('proprioception').

People with an ASD can be over- or under-sensitive in any or all of these areas. You may hear this referred to as being 'hypersensitive' or 'hyposensitive'.

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#28 [Permalink] Posted on 7th May 2014 12:08
Sensory sensitivities

Sight

Situated in the retina of the eye and activated by light, our sight helps us to define objects, people, colours, contrast and spatial boundaries. People with an ASD may experience the following differences.

Hypo (under-sensitive)

Objects appear quite dark, or lose some of their features.
Central vision is blurred but peripheral vision quite sharp.
A central object is magnified but things on the periphery are blurred.
Poor depth perception - problems with throwing and catching; clumsiness.

Hyper (over-sensitive)

Distorted vision:
objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.
Images may fragment.
Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.
Example...She was Mrs Marek, a face upon which light danced maniacally, turning her into more of a cartoon than a human being. Welcome to Toon town...I'd like you to enter this torture chamber I call my kitchen and meet my wife who is a 3D cartoon. Gillingham, G. (1995), page 51
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#29 [Permalink] Posted on 7th May 2014 19:49
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#30 [Permalink] Posted on 7th May 2014 20:03
Personal experience tells me some autistic people and kids, have selective mutism. If they've never met or spoken to you, there's a high chance they never will. There is a boy in the family, family members cannot believe it when they are told he does not speak at school....because they've never noticed that he speaks to them because they are familiar to him and he will not say a word if there is a unfamiliar person in the room amongst them.

It can be overcome a little but, not significantly, would be interesting to hear anyone's views and experience 'selective Mutism'.

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