March 29 – 2 April 2021 is World Autism Awareness Week. Understanding Autism and getting the right help and support has come a long way in recent years, but we still have a lot more work to do so we can understand this condition better. High profile celebrities such as Katie Price, Sylvester Stallone, and Jenny McCarthy, to name a few, have helped to de-mystify raising a child who is on the Autistic Disorder Spectrum. It is estimated that 1 in 100 children are autistic and if they do not receive the right support their childhood experience can be a challenging one. Need2Know Books explores the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. If you would like to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder Need2Know Books is giving a 50% discount off Autism the Essential Guide and The Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome to help provide further clarity and understanding.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder characterised by behavioural and communicational responses that impact a person’s ability to navigate social interactions and causes repetitive and restricted behaviour. All autism diagnoses are now officially titled ASD and include conditions such as Autism Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.
Although the way we define autism has changed over the years we have moved away from understanding autism as a disability caused by ‘bad parenting’ or ‘mental illness’ to one that exists as a continuous spectrum of conditions.
Due to on-going research and high-profile celebrities speaking out and sharing their experiences, parents are now in a better position to find educational resources to get the right support they need. There is still, however, a lot of work to do to fully understand the condition.
Katie Price has openly shared details about Harvey, her eldest child, and their journey together and actively encourages other celebrities to share their experiences. In a recent interview she said: “There are other celebrities with kids with autism and stuff, but you don’t really hear about it… there’s a lot of kids with disabilities and they hide away and don’t want to be seen out and don’t like people staring.
“But I’d like to be an ambassador with Harvey to show this and how good it is – it’s not a bad thing to have disabilities and hopefully people can learn.”
Katie’s son Harvey was born partially blind with a rare genetic condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome. He is also on the autistic Spectrum.
In 1982 Sylvester Stallone appeared on the cover of People Magazine with his son Seargeoh and revealed that his second born son had been diagnosed with autism at age three. In an interview Stallone warmly said: “There is no real father-and-son thing there I have to become his playmate. With a child like this you have to put away your ego. You can’t force him into your world.
“I sort of go along with whatever he is doing. Sometimes he likes to draw, mostly abstract things, and he has puzzles that we work on together. After he gets to the point where he trusts you, a little more communication can start. The primary therapy is the repetition of words and instructions. He has shown an extraordinary memory, but he can’t apply what he has learned.“
When we listen to parents who have children on the autistic spectrum it becomes clear that each parent’s experience can be very different. Like all children, autistic children have their own strengths and weaknesses. So, understanding each experience in one particular way is not helpful.
However, when establishing a diagnosis for a child or adult the following traits are required.
- Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice.
- Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech while other autistic people have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice.
- Autistic people often have difficulty ‘reading’ other people – recognising or understanding others’ feelings and intentions – and expressing their own emotions.
- They can also appear to be insensitive
- seek out time alone when overloaded by other people
- not seek comfort from other people
- appear to behave ‘strangely’ or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate
- find it hard to form friendships.
Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviour
- Autistic children and adults like routines. They may want to travel the same way to and from school or work, wear the same clothes or eat exactly the same food for breakfast.
- Change to routine can also be very distressing for autistic people and make them very anxious.
Highly Focused Interests or Hobbies
- Many autistic children and adults have intense and highly focused interests, often from a fairly young age.
- These can change over time or be lifelong. Autistic people can become experts in their special interests and often like to share their knowledge.
Meltdowns and Shutdowns
- When everything becomes too much for an autistic person, they can go into meltdown or shutdown. These are very intense and exhausting experiences.
The definition of autism has changed over the decades and it could change in future years as we understand more. Society no longer sees autistic children or people suffering from a disability with no future. Now we understand autism as a disorder that simply makes some children and people different.
If you have concerns for a loved one or need help with a diagnosis contact the National Autism Society.