What is an Autistic Spectrum Condition?
Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a term used to describe several symptoms and behaviours that affect the way a group of people understand and react to the world around them. ASC is an umbrella term that includes Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).
Whilst autism starts before the age of three, Asperger Syndrome is often not apparent until three or later. Increasingly, people are being diagnosed at different stages in their life from early childhood right through to old age.
What causes an Autistic Spectrum Condition?
There is no single cause of autism and both genetic and environmental factors play a role. The extent of the role that each of these factors play will vary from person to person. There is a consensus that autism is a neuropsychiatric condition, caused by a yet-to-be-defined biological factor, which may be in combination with a pre-existing genetic vulnerability.
Some people with autism may also have a learning disability; however, an autism diagnosis does not automatically mean this is the case.
How might I know if I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition?
There is a trio of challenges that you may experience if you have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, which are:
Non-verbal and verbal communication – you may find yourself often misreading social situations, confused about what people mean, taking things literally when they are not meant as such, or finding yourself upsetting people without understanding why.
Social understanding and social behaviour – for example, you may have difficulty understanding the behaviour of others, reading social contexts, or working with others. Children may find it hard to play with others.
Imagining and thinking/behaving flexibly – you may find it difficult to imagine situations in advance and children may find it hard to engage in imaginative play. You may have a special interest in something specific that you spend much of your time thinking about or doing.
You may also find you struggle with change and enjoy routine, often feeling stressed if routines need to change for any reason.
In addition to the above, some people with an ASD are very sensitive to sounds, light, sights, tastes, and textures. This can affect responses to things like clothes, food, noises, and certain environments.
How do I find out if I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition?
In order to find out if you have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, you need to undergo standardised assessments – usually with a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist or Speech and Language Therapist.
Autism and Psychiatric Conditions
Some people with an ASC (especially if the diagnosis has not taken place in early childhood) can experience psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, eating conditions, obsessive-compulsive conditions, PTSD, school refusal, social anxiety conditions, selective mutism, gender identity issues, sleep conditions, self-harm, and substance abuse or misuse.
How might Therapy help with my Autism?
Therapy can help you come to terms with your diagnosis. It can also help you learn how your experience of the world is affected by your condition, and work out what changes you might make in order to make life more pleasurable and manageable. A diagnosis can empower you to live life in a way that works well for you as you become more aware of the challenges of living with the condition.
Some people are diagnosed having already experienced significant mental health issues or crises. When this is the case, alongside the mentioned support, therapy can also help you with whatever issues have developed.
What type of therapy will I have and what will it be like?
The type of therapy used will vary depending on your individual needs and the therapist you see will discuss this with you. You will decide the best way forward together.
When you first meet your therapist he or she will ask you about anything that may make the session more comfortable for you. For example, you may wish to sit in a chair that is next to the therapist rather than faces him or her. You may need the temperature of the room adjusted, a noisy clock removed from the room, or a window closed.
Some people with autism find verbal communication difficult and therefore, after an initial meeting, it is sometimes possible to have therapy using a secure instant message platform enabling you to focus on what you would like to say in an environment that is familiar to you.
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