Through the eyes of someone with autism

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Published: 27th March 2017

To help mark this week's World Autism Awareness Week, leads from our Learning Disabilities team have provided us with an insight into the world through the eyes of someone with autism, and the importance of diagnosis…

What is autism?

Art Therapy QA 05

Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Someone may have mild, moderate or severe autism, so it is referred to as a spectrum, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There are three common features of autism, which might affect the way a person:

  • interacts with others in a social situation
  • is able to communicate with others
  • thinks about and deals with social situations.

How do people with autism see the world?

Some people say the world feels overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety.

In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder. People without autism appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other; yet can also struggle to build rapport with people with autism. Consequently, the person with autism is likely to become very social isolated. Some people with autism may wonder why they are 'different' and feel their social differences mean people don't understand them.

Diagnosing autism

Adults and children can get the diagnosis. Many people who are adults now would not have benefited from all the diagnostic tools we have today. Therefore, it is important to remember that many people in their later years enquire about a diagnosis.

Diagnosis is often a daunting and very emotional time, and getting help from family, friends and professionals is really important to help you through the process. Many individuals and parents have mixed feelings about the process of diagnosis, and everyone's experiences will be different.

It's also important to remember that, although there is no 'cure' for autism, getting a diagnosis can be the first step towards making sure you or a loved one get the right support to make the most out of life.

CLCH diagnostic pathway

At CLCH, the Adult Autism Assessment and Intervention Service was set up to offer an assessment and diagnosis service to adults who may have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition, the service also offers time-limited psychological interventions to adults with a diagnosis of ASD. The service is exclusively for adults who do not have a learning disability.

Is autism a learning disability?

Autism is not a learning disability, but around half of people with autism may also have a learning disability, which will affect the level of support they need in their life. Some people may also receive a 'dual diagnosis'; for example, they may have Down's Syndrome and autism.

Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism which also causes communication and emotional problems. However, people with Asperger's syndrome often have fewer problems with communication and do not have a learning disability.

About World Autism Awareness Week (#WAAW)

World Autism Awareness Week, run by the National Autistic Society, is an important opportunity to raise money and awareness of autism. Better understanding will mean autistic people are better able to lead the lives they choose. There are a number of ways to raise money and support the week, and for more information and resources, visit the National Autistic Society website.

You can also follow the week on Twitter by searching #WAAW.

Dr Roman Raczka
Consultant Lead Clinical Psychologist

Dr Lizzie Kock
Highly Specialist Psychologist in Autism

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