The autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affect social interactions, communication, interest and behaviour. In children the symptoms are present in different severity and even if the symptoms are present before their third birthday, a formal diagnosis may be made after that age.
It’s estimated that about 1 in 100 people in the UK has this condition and the boys rather than girls are diagnosed with the condition.
The signs and symptoms associated with ASD in spoken language may include:
• Delay in speech development
• monotonous language
• communicating in single word, rather that sentences
• frequently repeating set words and phrases
In responding to others, they can face difficulties such as:
• may find it difficult to show and accept affection
• not responding when their name is called
• reacting in unusually negative way when asked to do something
In interaction with others they might:
• showing little interest with others
• being unaware of people’s personal space
• not enjoying situations usually enjoyed
In their behaviour they might have:
• repetitive movements
• insisting to follow familiar routines and becoming anxious if not accomplished
• preferring to play alone
• not making eye contact
Differently from other forms of ASD, people with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t have significant delays or difficulties in language but may experience difficulties with social communication.
Signs of Asperger’s syndrome are:
• limited and inappropriate social interactions
• difficulties with facial expressions and non-verbal communication
• unusual mannerism
• inability to understand social and emotional issues
• inability to see things from someone else’s point of view
HIGH FUNCTIONING AUTISM (HFA)
Even if this condition is characterized by really similar features to those with the Asperger’s syndrome, the defining characteristic of the High Functioning Autism is that the sign and symptoms doesn’t cause or include intellectual disabilities.
Because of their average or above average intelligence they usually want to interact with other people but with the lack of understanding of the face expressions or non-verbal communication, they will suffer of depression or anxiety by feeling like social outcast.
Some other symptoms may include a delay in early language development and motor skill, strong reactions to textures, odours, sounds and sights.
HOW AUTISM CAN BE CONSIDERED AS A SPECTRUM CONDITION
Autism is just an umbrella term to define a number of conditions under one general term.
Every person affected by this condition will have certain difficulties and how severe a condition will affect the everyday life. Every individual with this diagnosis, has different challenges, abilities and symptoms. This term basically refers to all the people showing these traits:
• difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
• limited interests and repetitive behaviours
• symptoms that affect individual’s ability to function properly in school, work and other areas of life
WHY IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNISE THAT AUTISM IS A LIFELONG CONDITION
Even if the ASD is defined as a disorder, is fundamental to remember that every child or young person with this diagnosis tomorrow will be an adult with ASD.
Most types of this condition come with severe difficulties that affect the ability to support themselves through their lives. Is important also for parents and carers to understand and support this lifelong condition with no cure.
The SENCO is the official source of help in school and then in college as they need continuing support during transitions, source of anxiety in people with autism.
OUTLINE THE FOLLOWING MODELS IN RELATION TO IDENTIFYING AUTISM, FOLLOWING THE THEORISTS KANNER, ASPERGER AND WING AND GOULD. (AC 2.1) – KANNER:
In the 1940’s, Leo Kanner, an American doctor, carried a paper research looking for any proofs for the possible causes of autism.
However, even if the main purpose of the research was to identify the possible causes of autism, during this direct observation on children he suddenly defined some features of autism which will help to have an early diagnosis:
• the inability to relate themselves in an ordinary way to both people and situations
• inability to form sentences spontaneously
• the insistence of sameness, which is a deep dislike and/or fear of changes
Even if a recently research paper into the history of autism is going to make life to a big conversation among autistic people and their family member, Hans Asperger provided a specific list of features, including:
• strange use of language
• obsessive interest in very narrow areas
• difficulties in understanding non-verbal communication such as facial expression and body language
• clumsiness and poor body awareness
• behavioural problems
• family and gender patterns
WING AND GOULD
Decades after the researches of Kenner and Asperger, two women in 1979 examined the prevalence of autism among children know to have special needs in the London borough of Camberwell.
These researches produced a model called the “triad of impairments” founding a prevalence of core deficit in:
social interaction, communication and imagination, with a repetitive stereotyped pattern of activities.
5 EXPLAIN HOW THE TERMS ‘NEURODIVERSE’ AND ‘NEUROTYPICAL’ ARE USED IN RELATION TO AUTISM. (AC 2.2)
The terms ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘neurotypical’ are just two sides of the same coin: the neurodiversity.
The neurodiversity is a biological fact and in relation to autism they are used to define as neurodiverse the 1% of the population with diverse neurological conditions, respect the neurotypical condition not included in the autism spectrum.
By using the term neurodiversity, we allow the society to recognise and respect the neurological differences as any other human variation. These differences may include people being diagnosed with ADHD and the Tourette’s syndrome.
6 OUTLINE THE CURRENT GUIDELINES FOR THE DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM IN THE UK. (AC 3.1)
The first ever disability-specific law in UK was the Autism Act 2009. This act helped to give to the government the duty to produce a strategy for autistic adults and to produce a statutory guidance for local councils and local health bodies on implementing the adult autism strategy by the end of 2020.
Even if there are national guidelines that professional as psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatrician, speech and language therapists should follow, there isn’t one standard way to have a formal diagnosis. Under the Autism Strategy, local authorities in England must have a clear pathway of diagnosis for adults which means that an individual has a right to a diagnostic assessment and their GP should be able to inform the patient how to get this assessment.
7A DESCRIBE THE DIFFICULTIES SURROUNDING THE DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM IN RELATION TO: (AC 3.2) –
Autism is a spectrum disorder, it means that each person with this condition has their own specific traits and characteristics so it’s extremely difficult to set a specific diagnostic test that is effective for all individual.
For this reason, isn’t easy to diagnose this disorder and physicians and psychologists must be able to decode a wide range of behaviours especially when trying to diagnose it in younger children where they are just beginning to show themselves and their personality.
Into the specific, there’s more aspects that can make a formal diagnosis difficult like the presence of a co-occurrence of complementary learning difficulties and mental health conditions as ADHD, depression and anxiety.
It’s important to also consider the changes through the time, as the child grows and develop they change abilities and interests like everyone else, for example, how can we see a delayed progress in social skills in a child aged two years old?
Unfortunately, there’s also a lack of genetic and medical tests, that means there’s not genetic marker to confirm this disorder making even harder to have a formal diagnosis.
When professionals trying to identify signs of the spectrum, they must be able to recognise it even if the main symptoms are characteristic of other disabilities like the Rett syndrome, neurogenerative disorder, learning and language disabilities.
There’s also another factor which makes harder the diagnosis: the young age of the display of the symptoms where parents sometimes are unable to understand that every child is different with different develop times. In fact, some of the main characteristics of autism will fully develop until later childhood so sometimes, a child with language delays, could be just a case of late development which will improve when they start school.
7B THE RANGE OF DIFFERENT DIAGNOSES ON THE SPECTRUM:
As we know there’s not a test able to cover all the specific traits and characteristics for each individual, so some professionals used specific characteristics that may occur in people with ASD and named differently, however, this is slightly disagreed by other professional because for example, when we have a diagnosis of non-verbal learning disorder, semantic-pragmatic disorder, right hemisphere learning disorder and pathological demand avoidance, for some professionals, those are part of the autistic spectrum.
A problem that may occur with professional with limited experience of ASD, is that they look at poor attention span, reading difficulties as dyslexia, overactivity, Tourette’s syndrome and dyspraxia as a single diagnosis without understanding that all of those are actually part of the “social impairments” typical of the spectrum.
8 GIVE REASONS WHY PEOPLE MAY BE RELUCTANT TO SEEK A DIAGNOSIS. (AC 3.3)
Some parents may be reluctant to going through an autism assessment for their child because of an understandable fear of the result, but it’s fundamental to understand the benefits for the child and the all community even if the results come negative.
Parents should be strongly encouraged and supported; if positive, a diagnosis gives access to funding and most important the child will be better supported by teachers at school allow the child to better understand themselves, to be connected to a larger group of people with the same diagnosis through the whole life and to effectively fights the loneliness typically experienced in this kind of situations.