Autistic spectrum conditions
Understand the main characteristics of autistic spectrum conditions 1. 1 – Explain why it is important to recognise that each person on the autistic spectrum has their own individual abilities needs strengths gifts and interests. If we know individual’s abilities, need, strengths, gifts and interests then we can focus on them, we can create environment, situations, we can pick activities to support and develop individual’s. 1. 2 – Analyse the main diagnostic features of autistic spectrum conditions commonly known as the and amp;quot;triad of impairments and amp;quot;
1. 3 – Explain the meanings of the term ‘spectrum’ in relation to autism by reference to the notions of sub-conditions and individual variation within the autistic spectrum. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.
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Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. 1. 4 – Describe the sensory and perceptual difficulties commonly experienced by individuals with an autistic spectrum condition. People with autism may experience some form of sensory sensitivity. This can occur in one or more of the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
A person’s senses are either intensified (hypersensitive) or under-sensitive (hypo-sensitive). For example, a person with autism may find certain background sounds, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. People who are hypo-sensitive may not feel pain or extremes of temperature. Some may rock, spin or flap their hands to stimulate sensation, to help with balance and posture or to deal with stress. People with sensory sensitivity may also find it harder to use their body awareness system.
This system tells us where our bodies are, so for those with reduced body awareness, it can be harder to navigate rooms avoiding obstructions, stand at an appropriate distance from other people and carry out ‘fine motor’ tasks such as tying shoelaces. 1. 5 – Describe other conditions that may be associated with the autistic spectrum ADHD is a condition that makes a person inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive hearing impairments Down’s syndrome is a lifelong condition that causes delays in learning and development.
It cannot be cured, but people with the condition can be supported to live a happy and independent life. Most parents find out that their baby has Down’s syndrome soon after their birth – it occurs because some babies’ cells contain an extra chromosome 21. All people with Down’s syndrome will have some degree of learning disability. Children with Down’s syndrome do learn to walk, talk and be toilet trained but in general will meet these developmental milestones later than children who do not have Down’s syndrome.
They may find it easier to learn visually, like many people with autism, and learn to talk more easily if their main words are signed as well as spoken. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and is lifelong in its effects. The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’. Dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match
up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. Dyslexia tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effects can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling. Dyspraxia is an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information, which results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. It affects the planning of what to do and how to do it, and is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.
The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means ‘doing’ or ‘acting’. Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to ten per cent of the population, with males four times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families. There may be an overlap with related conditions such as dyslexia and autism spectrum disorders. People with autism often have difficulties with motor co-ordination and, if they are significantly affected in this way, may also be given a formal diagnosis of dyspraxia.
As with autism, people with dyspraxia may be over- or under-senstive to certain sensory stimuli. Epilepsy is a condition in which the affected person has seizures or periods of loss of consciousness. It is the second most common neurological condition in the UK. Epilepsy is due to an upset in brain chemistry, which means that the messages that travel between nerve cells or neurons become scrambled. Because of this, the activity of neurons is disturbed and results in a seizure or loss of consciousness. Many types of seizure can occur and epilepsy can affect anyone at any age.
Fetal anti-convulsant syndrome (FACS) can occur when a mother has to take epilepsy medications (anti-convulsants) during pregnancy. A child with FACS may have a delay in developing speech and language or may have difficulties with social interaction, memory and attention. Some may also have other conditions, such as spina bifida. A number of children with FACS also have a diagnosis of autism. Fragile X is the most common known cause of inherited learning disability affecting one in 4,000 boys and one in 6,000 girls. People with Fragile X can have mild to severe learning disabilities.
Their speech and language development may be delayed and they can experience anxiety in social situations. Behaviours associated with Fragile X can include a short attention span, impulsiveness, overactivity, dislike of eye contact, difficulty in relating to other people, the need for a familiar routine, repetitive speech and hand flapping or hand biting. Some of these are similar to difficulties that people with autism may experience. However, autism and Fragile X syndrome are two different diagnoses: some people with Fragile X are also diagnosed with autism, and vice versa.
Hyperlexia is characterised by an intense fascination with letters or numbers or, in younger people, an ability to read far beyond their age. People with hyperlexia may, nevertheless, have difficulty understanding verbal language and interacting and socialising with others. People with autism can have different ‘degrees’ of learning disability, which can affect all aspects of their life, from studying in school to learning how to wash themselves or make a meal. Some people will be able to live fairly independently – although they may need a degree of support to achieve this – while others may require lifelong, specialist support.
People with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome do not usually have accompanying learning disabilities, but may still have specific learning difficulties – such as dyslexia – or other related conditions such as ADHD or epilepsy. If someone has a learning difficulty (as opposed to a learning disability), this means that they have difficulties in a specific area, for example someone with dyslexia will have difficulties recognising words, reading or writing. PDA is increasingly recognised as part of the autism spectrum. Here, we explain the characteristics of PDA and what can be done to support someone who has the condition.
What is PDA? PDA, first described by Elizabeth Newson during the 1980s as a pervasive developmental disorder distinct from autism, is increasingly becoming recognised as part of the autism spectrum. It is a lifelong disability and, as with autism and Asperger syndrome, people with PDA will require different amounts of support depending on how their condition affects them. The central difficulty for people with PDA is their avoidance of the everyday demands made by other people, due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.
Hence the name of the syndrome: pathological demand avoidance. People with PDA tend to have much better social communication and interaction skills than other people on the spectrum, and are consequently able to use this ability to their advantage. They still have real difficulties in these areas though, usually because they need to control the interaction. They often have highly developed social mimicry and role play, sometimes becoming different characters or person as. The main features of PDA are:
obsessively resisting ordinary demands appearing sociable on the surface but lacking depth in their understanding (often recognised by parents early on) excessive mood swings, often switching suddenly comfortable (sometimes to an extreme extent) in role play and pretending language delay, seemingly as a result of passivity, but often with a good degree of ‘catch-up’ obsessive behaviour, often focused on people rather than things. Often in cases of PDA there will have been a passive early history, but this is not always the case.
It is believed that there may be neurological involvement in some cases, with a higher than usual incidence of clumsiness and other soft neurological signs. The main features of PDA are described in more detail below. Other children on theautism spectrum can display one or more of these features but when many occur together it is helpful to use the diagnosis of PDA because things that help people with autism or Asperger syndrome do not always help those with PDA. People with PDA can be controlling and dominating, especially when they feel anxious and are not in charge.
They can however be enigmatic and charming when they feel secure and in control. Many parents describe their PDA child as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. It is important to recognise that these children have a hidden disability and often appear ‘normal’ to others. Many parents of children with PDA feel that they have been wrongly accused of poor parenting through lack of understanding about the condition. These parents will need a lot of support themselves, as their children can often present severe behavioural challenges. People with PDA are likely to need a lot of support into their adult life.
Limited evidence so far suggests that the earlier the diagnosis and the better support that they have, the more able and independent they are likely to become. Semantic pragmatic disorder affects the use of language in a social context (knowing what to say and when to say it). There is debate about whether semantic pragmatic disorder is part of the autism spectrum, or an entirely separate condition. At the moment, this isn’t clear. Rapin and Allen originally defined semantic pragmatic disorder (SPD) as a language disorder in 1983.
Confusion surrounds the use of diagnostic terminology in the area of SPD, where neurology, psychology, psychiatry and speech and language therapy converge. The most common definitions of SPD are listed below: A component/language style of other disorders such as autism, Asperger syndrome or hyperlexia The same as high-functioning autism A separate valid disorder on the autism spectrum A sub-category of specific language impairment that echoes autistic like behaviours but not part of the autism spectrum. There is much debate as to whether or not SPD is part of the autism spectrum.
Unfortunately no diagnostic criteria exist to confirm this. visual impairment and an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It will be useful to practitioners working with children who have both visual impairment and an ASD. It may also be useful to the families of such children and to those concerned with adults who have both visual impairment and an ASD. The meaning of ‘visual impairment’ For the purposes of this article, visual impairment is ‘a profound permanent reduction or absence of vision that cannot be corrected with spectacles or contact lenses’.
Children who have both a visual impairment and an ASD will all have individual characteristics, abilities and needs. However, in very broad terms, it may be useful to consider three groups of children who have both conditions. 1. In most children who have both visual impairment and as ASD, the visual impairment is considered to be the primary disability because it is diagnosed first. Visual impairment is usually identified at birth or in the first few months of life, before it is possible to diagnose an ASD. This article is primarily about these children.
Many of the children in this group have additional needs as well as visual impairment and ASD. These may include: learning difficulties physical disability – for example, cerebral palsy hearing impairment attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) dyspraxia dyslexia epilepsy other chronic medical conditions. 2. Some children with an ASD start life sighted but later lose their sight. This may result, eg from an illness or accident. 3. Sadly, some children with an ASD lose their sight through self-injury. 1. 6 – Describe how language and intellectual abilities vary between individuals and sub-groups across the spectrum
Individuals who are considered to be on the autism spectrum are in many ways very different from each other. The range of intellectual ability extends from the severely learning disabled range right up to normal or even superior levels of intellect. Similarly, linguistic skills range from those who are mute to those who display complex, grammatically correct speech. All such individuals have difficulties in three main areas. Different authors have used slightly different terminology to describe this cluster of symptoms, but the concept of the ‘triad of impairments’ is widely used.