Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD), affects about 1% of people worldwide and involves difficulties with communication, relating to others, and a restriction and narrow focus in interests and behaviours. Some symptoms of autism include:
- Difficulty communicating
- Challenges with abstract thinking
- Difficulty taking turns or listening
- Avoidance of social relationships
- Difficulty with school
- Restricted and repetitive behaviors
- Tendency to stick to routines
- Dislike of changes in routine
- Over or under-responsive to sensory input
The causes of autism are unknown. There is some evidence that genetics play a role, and that environmental factors trigger the disorder. Brain scans show some differences in the brain shapes of children with autism. This may mean a difference in brain structure or function causes the condition, however exact causes are not yet known and researchers continue to explore possible causes of autism.
Asperger's was once known as “high-functioning autism.” Its symptoms are often similar but less severe than autism. Delays in language and speech may not be present in Asperger's. People with Asperger’s may not receive a diagnosis because their behaviour can appear "normal," if socially awkward.
Asperger's is now part of the autism spectrum. But there are some common signs of the condition. These behaviours and symptoms will appear early in life and will impact the individual’s daily life. Symptoms of Asperger’s may include:
- Normal language development and intelligence
- Desire to fit in and relate to others but uncertainty over how to do so
- Social awkwardness
- Difficulty expressing emotions and empathy
- Avoiding eye contact
- Confusion with social cues like body language or sarcasm
- Strong interest in a narrow set of topics
- Clumsiness or motor skill delays
Many aspects of ASD can impact a child’s life. These impacts may carry into teen years and adulthood. Social skills and interaction are key in children’s development. Children with autism may have problems meeting people or making friends and this can affect mental health. Lack of awareness and positive support can cause problems for these children. Even autistic children with high intelligence may find school difficult.
BayWellbeing Therapists can help children with Autism and Aspergers using a combination of talk therapy and cognitive behavioural skills to focus on building their social skills repertoire and confidence. Engagement through age appropriate games and activities is established and a plan developed identifying the areas to be focused on such as broadening areas of interest, increasing social circles, improving confidence at school, communication and friendship skills.
Some mental health and medical issues can co-occur with autism. Therapy can be helpful in addressing the effects of many of these.