Autism is now grouped with other neurodevelopmental disorders under the designation, Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. This category includes Aspergers Syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. “Spectrum” is used to denote the wide range of symptoms, skills and impairment found among ASDs.
The range includes severely disabled ASDs who need assistance in living, to those with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome who hold down jobs and lead fairly normal lives. The symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome have been linked with characteristics of outstanding contributors in history such as Michelangelo, Mozart, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent Van Gogh ,Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.
The causes of ASD are still being investigated. What is known is that the brains of autistic people differ substantially from “normal” people, which means that ASDs experience life in a very different way from other people. What is also being established is that if ASD is identified early in a child’s life, appropriate intervention and training can make a great difference in their future.
The adults with ASD who you will run into will probably be at the college campus, workplace or in social settings. You may notice something odd about these persons such as the following characteristics:
- They don’t make eye contact.
- They may say things that have no connection to the conversation taking place.
- They may repeat what the other person has just said (referred to as echolalia).
- They may talk at length about a single topic of interest to themselves and go on and on.
- They seem not to understand the interactions occurring among people: the jokes, figures of speech, sarcasm and non-verbal cues.
- They resist being touched, but may get too close when speaking to someone; they have difficulty understanding boundaries and body language.
- They prefer to be alone and are aloof; they are unaware or disinterested in what is happening around them.
In short, ASDs have a major problem with social relationships and with social communication. It is difficult for them to make and keep friends. They find it easier to relate to people who are older or younger, but have especial difficulty with peers.
Aside from social problems, ASD often comes with sensory processing disorders resulting in either extreme over- or under-sensitivity to stimuli. The sounds, smells, sights and other types of input can be overwhelming and result in comfort-giving repetitive behavior or intense focus on inappropriate items to deal with the disturbances they are experiencing.
Persons with ASD have difficulty dealing with change and prefer to stick to a set of behaviors such as a daily routine. They dislike travel. Many refuse to try new foods and have difficulty changing plans. In this same vein, they tend to be preoccupied with a narrow area of interest about which they become extremely knowledgeable.
It’s possible for a person with ASD to change and become more effective socially and to even make and keep friends. They need to understand themselves, first of all, and then to know and learn the skills that would enable them to find a place in the world of people. If you have empathy for persons with ASD, the following videos will broaden your understanding and help you to know how to bring a ray of light into the life of someone who suffers with ASD.
• How a person with ASD and sensory processing disorder experiences a normal, daily event https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plPNhooUUuc
• Another video produced by an autistic person simulating what she experiences with sensory overload http://www.autismkey.com/youtube-user-demonstrates-what-it-feels-like-to-have-autism/
• How an autistic person developed his skills and understanding to function successfully as an adult. Video includes input from a psychologist, a teacher, a parent and a friend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19i2GsLluGM
• The inner life of an autistic teenage girl http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/news/video-teen-autism-7653241
• A young man with Aspergers Syndrome has developed his skill to astonishing heights http://www.savevid.com/video/asperger-syndrome-clay-marzo-just-add-water.html