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The Autistic Spectrum An Introduction Anja Rutten Senior Lecturer Psychology and Counselling Staffordshire University.

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1 The Autistic Spectrum An Introduction Anja Rutten Senior Lecturer Psychology and Counselling Staffordshire University

2 Autism Some of the terms used to describe people on the autistic spectrum Autism Autistic Spectrum Disorders Autistic Spectrum Conditions Autism Spectrum Disorders Autism Spectrum Conditions Asperger syndrome Aspergers Disorder High Functioning Autism Kanners Autism Childhood Disintegrative Disorder Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

3 The Autistic Spectrum Extreme ability in some areas Average I.Q. Above average I.Q Mild learning disability Moderate learning disability Severe learning disability

4 Prevalence Approximately 1:110 on the autistic spectrum Increase? Improved diagnosis? More common than Downs syndrome or cerebral palsy Approx 80% high functioning – some very high functioning 4 times as many men as women Cause unknown but is likely to contain genetic component Lifelong (but not an illness)

5 The Triad of Impairment

6 Impairment of communication Range of impairments: Absence of any desire to communicate with others Communication confined to the expression of needs only Use language confidently but lack comprehension Dont forget non-verbal communication Eye contact Gesture Body language Facial expression Ability to communicate is linked to anxiety

7 Impairment of social interaction Impairments in forming and maintaining relationships Withdrawal Attempting to interact May be socially inappropriate Can come across as –Aloof –Passive –Active but odd –Over formal

8 Flexibility and imagination Difficulties with language Difficulties with making sense of the world Abnormal development of play Taking things literally Not being able to deal with change Unusual and obsessive interests

9 Sensory issues Many people also have sensory issues These may affect one, some or all senses Vision Hearing Touch Smell Taste They may manifest as: Over-sensitivity Under-sensitivity Differences in perception

10 Psychological theories Autism is a problem with reading other peoples minds –The Theory of Mind explanation tries to account for social and communication difficulties People with Autism have difficulties in the part of the brain that acts like the Chief Executive –The Executive Function deficits account tries to explain restricted interests and difficulties planning People with Autism have a different style of processing what happens around them that –Weak Central Coherence theory tries to explain over- focus on detail

11 Psychological theories Autism is a form of extreme male brain - This theory tries to explain why more men than women are diagnosed with autism Autism is caused by high levels of testosterone in the womb - This theory looks at how hormones influence brain structure No theory of autism explains ALL elements

12 How does autism affect people? It depends! Disability or difference Where on the spectrum Co-morbidities Quality and quantity of help available

13 How does autism affect people? Uneven profile often present –Intellectual vs social –Verbal vs non-verbal Common issues –Understanding (e.g. taking things literally) –Motivational problems –Behavioural problems –Emotional problems –Being overwhelmed by sensory experiences

14 How to help someone with Autism Try to understand from the persons point of view – its usually not personal Issues in autism relate back to Triad of Impairment Expressions are functional – i.e. the behaviour is trying to achieve something Keep arousal levels low (for both of you!) Early intervention Consistency is vital – say what you mean, mean what you say

15 Further reading The internet is a source of good and some not-so-good information. The websites below have good quality information. Some suggestions for further reading. Attwood, T. (2006). The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley. Baron-Cohen, S and Bolton, P (2002) Autism: The Facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press Beardon, L., & Edmonds, G. (2007). ASPECT Consultancy Report: A National Report on the Needs of Adults with Asperger Syndrome. Deudney, C., & Shah, A. (2001). Mental Health and Asperger Syndrome - Information Sheet. London. Frith, U (2003) Autism – Explaining the Enigma. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ghaziuddin, M (2005) Mental Health Aspects of Autism and Asperger Syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Stoddart, K. P. (Ed.). (2005). Children, Youth and Adults with Asperger Syndrome: Integrating Multiple Perspectives. London: Jessica Kingsley.

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