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Autism and Seizures

A 1/3 of people with autism also experience seizures, sometimes related to epilepsy. I experience a type of seizure known as a focal (partial) seizure. This type of seizure causes my eyes to flicker and roll as well as causing spasms and rapid breathing.

It can be difficult to spot a seizure – especially when a person has autism as the symptoms can be passed off as a sensory overload or an autism trait.

The link between autism and seizures is still being explored. Like autism, seizures exists on a spectrum. Severity varies widely among people. There are several types of seizures, each with somewhat different symptoms:

  • Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common. Also known as gran mal seizures, they produce muscle stiffening followed by jerking. Gran mal seizures also produce loss of consciousness.
  • Absence seizures can be difficult to recognise. Also known as petit mal seizures, they are marked by periods of unresponsiveness. The person may stare into space. He or she may or may not exhibit jerking or twitching.
  • Tonic seizures involve muscle stiffening alone.
  • Clonic seizures involve repeated jerking movements on both sides of the body.
  • Myoclonic seizures involve jerking or twitching of the upper body, arms or legs.
  • Atonic seizures involve sudden limpness, or loss of muscle tone. The person may fall or drop his or her head involuntarily.

What should I do if someone is having a focal seizure?

Simple partial seizures rarely require first aid. Since consciousness is preserved, the person is almost always aware of the seizure and the surroundings. When care or help is needed, what to do would depend on the specific seizure symptoms.

Examples of what to do:

  • Stop any activity in which you could get hurt when symptoms that affect vision, thinking, emotions, or affects your sensation or movement. This would include hallucinations too – what you may be hearing, seeing, or thinking may not be clear during this type of seizure.
  • If you are walking, sit down to avoid falling.
  • Remove harmful objects if an arm or leg movement could bump into them.
  • Stay away from open flames, bodies of water, or other unsafe areas.
  • Sometimes relaxing activities such as deep breathing or imagery can help slow down or abort symptoms in some people. Others may find that focusing on a specific activity can help.
  • If the person has a vagus nerve stimular, use the magnet to help stop the event.
  • Get the person levels, look them in the eyes and try to reassure them that you’re there and present.

Usually further help isn’t needed after simple partial seizures. Yet if the seizure occurs in clusters or goes into a complex partial or generalise seizure, more help may be needed.

call 111 in the U.K. for advice if you are unsure and in emergencies or where the person is not recovering call 999.

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World Mental Health Day 2017

This post is a day late, frankly because yesterday I spent the day travelling to London. A few weeks ago I got invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for those who work in the mental health sector. The reception was held in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales.

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i have been advocating for change in the mental health sector for 5 years now. The overall objective of world mental health day is raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health, so this blog post will do just that.

What is a mental health problem?

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. They affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a mental health problem can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Where to go for help

The best way to start is normally by talking to a health care professional, such as your doctor (also known as your General Practitioner or GP).

Your GP can:

  • make a diagnosis
  • offer you support and treatments
  • refer you to a specialist service

What should I say to my GP?

It can be hard to know how to talk to your doctor about your mental health – especially when you’re not feeling well. But it’s important to remember that there is no wrong way to tell someone how you’re feeling.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Be honest and open.
  • Focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet.
  • Try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed.
  • Use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help.
  • Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you.

click here to learn about other support services

Some pictures from last night

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William and Kate entering
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Me standing near Kate
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young people campaigners
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Welcoming William and Kate 
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meeting Professor Green
autism · autism sensory bag · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Myths about Autism

Although over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic (more than 1 in 100 people), false and often negative perceptions about the condition are common.

This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse and bullying.

Autism affects more than 1 in 100 people – fact. Over 700,000 people in UK are autistic, which means that 2.8m people have a relative on the autism spectrum.

People tend to ‘grow out’ of autism in adulthood – myth. It’s a lifelong condition – autistic children become autistic adults.

Autism affects both boys and girls – fact. There is a popular misconception that autism is simply a male condition. This is false.

Some autistic people don’t speak – fact. Some autistic people are non-verbal and communicate through other means. However, autism is a spectrum condition, so everyone’s autism is different.

Autism is a mental health problem – myth. Autism is a developmental disability. It’s a difference in how your brain works. Autistic people can have good mental health, or experience mental health problems, just like anyone else.

All autistic people are geniuses – myth. Just under half of all people with an autism diagnosis also have a learning disability. Others have an IQ in the average to above average range. ‘Savant’ abilities like extraordinary memory are rare.

Everyone is a bit autistic – myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person ‘a bit autistic’.

[Credit: NAS]

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Why Getting Healthy Sleep is Important to Recovering from Eating Disorders

Good sleep is necessary for overall health, and especially when you’re recovering from an eating disorder. When you don’t get enough sleep, everything deteriorates, including your physical and mental health.

Sleep loss takes a toll on all daytime functioning, including a poor mood and decline in cognitive function. People with inadequate sleep even feel pain more acutely and perceive their general health as poorer than well rested people.

Poor sleep is associated with depression and a negative self image. In paediatric research, poor sleepers have been found to be more depressed and have a negative self image. Poor sleepers often have inferior coping behaviours and behavioural problems.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep for Recovery?

Adults and seniors need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need about nine hours of sleep. The actual amount of sleep you need will depend on your age, health, and mental activity, along with other factors.

If you’re drowsy during the day, struggling emotionally and cognitively, and fall asleep almost instantly when you go to bed, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep at night.

Signs of too little sleep include:

  • Night wakings

  • Sleeping past your normal wakeup time

  • Experiencing post-sleep inertia

  • Moodiness and irritability

  • Daytime drowsiness

  • Forgetfulness or poor cognitive function

It’s also possible to sleep too much, which can also negatively affect your physical and mental health. If you’re sleeping too much, you could have signs including:

  • Taking more than an hour to fall asleep

  • Regularly waking before your alarm

  • Low daytime energy

  • Depression

  • Hypersomnia

How You Can Get the Sleep You Need to Support Eating Disorder Recovery

Get a good night’s sleep, and you’ll feel rejuvenated and more ready to face the day. With these tips, you can get the sleep you need to feel better as you work through eating disorder recovery:

  • Create or maintain a consistent sleep schedule. With a regular sleep schedule, you will go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s a good idea to follow this schedule even when you’re on vacation. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get to sleep, rest, and wake up.

  • Align your sleep schedule with sunlight. As much as possible, wake up with natural sunlight. Natural sunlight can regulate your circadian rhythm and help you feel more alert in the daytime. If you can’t get natural sunlight in the morning, try bright bedroom lights instead.

  • Avoid late naps. Although naps can be beneficial if you’re not able to get enough sleep at night, they can be a problem if you’re napping too close to bedtime. Try napping mid-afternoon for 25 minutes or less and avoid napping within three hours of bedtime.

  • Develop a sleep routine. Each night before bed, do the same things, so you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth and turning out the lights before you crawl into a comfortable bed.

  • Be aware of medication side effects. Some medications can cause insomnia, increased alertness, and/or daytime sleepiness. Understand the side effects of any medication you may be taking, and talk to your doctor if you think they are causing sleep problems.

Eating disorder recovery can be made more difficult with a lack of sleep. But with good sleep habits and adequate sleep at night, you will be better supported in good health and recovery.

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Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.

eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

When Memories Come Back…

In 2014, I was completely submersed in the depths of Anorexia Nervosa. I bought, prepared, cooked and presented all my food. No one but me could do this for me. I had to do it. I sat each night and planned my meals for the entire next day. I see now it was a control thing – and that’s one of the key factors in an eating disorder. A lot of people – probably the majority of people – with eating disorders have perfectionist or obsessive personalities. I have both.

An hour ago, my grandma offered to make me a burger with fried onions. To this day, I still cook my own food. On a rare occasion, I hand the control over to somebody else. I was mulling over this idea of my grandma making me tea; feeling slightly out of control and anxious. Memories of 2014 came rushing back to me.

I remember coming home from college one day and having a complete breakdown on the kitchen floor because my mum had thrown away the salad I had leftover from the night before. She said the salad was going off, and it probably was. But in my state of mind, every leaf and crumb of that salad had been calculated and counted and written into my food journal. It had been planned into my head as my dinner for that Tuesday night, and then all of a sudden that control was ripped right from underneath me. It’s just a salad – I know that now – but back then it was so much to my mind and to my life.

Another time, my stepdad had added milk to mashed potatoes alongside the small blob of butter I’d already counted. I was screaming and crying for a good half hour; refusing to eat it.

It’s a strange thing: control. My whole life was based purely on control. Controlling my food allowed me to feel like I was controlling at least something when the whole world around me was falling apart…

I’m still obsessive. I’m a perfectionist. I like to be in control. Though, its a much different type of control to what it was back then.

This control allows me to let others take over sometimes and tonight I’ll eat that burger and onions knowing that I’m further than I was before.

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autism · eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized · weight loss

Making it two decades!

Tomorrow is the day I turn 20 years old. I have officially survived and lived two decades. It’s crazy to think how fast time flies; how many birthdays I’ve celebrated; how many things have happened and changed. How much I’ve changed.

At 11 years old, I didn’t think I’d survive to be 12. Each year since then has been a battle. Each year since then has been an absolute roller coaster. Joy, change, hurt, sadness, depression, anxiety, happiness, fear, shame. At 15 years old, I cried myself to sleep because I didn’t want to celebrate my 16th birthday and become ‘grown up’. Now I’m sat here, the night before my 20th birthday and I won’t cry myself to sleep. Life isn’t a walk in the park. I’m far from where I want to be but much further than I have been.

Tomorrow I will wake up and celebrate that I have actually made it two decades in this crazy world. Two decades of life to which half has been filled with mental illness…

I will not give up.

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autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Is Autism Different in Girls?

Is Autism Different in Girls – Video

Gould and Ashton-Smith (2011) identified the different way in which girls and women present under the following headings: social understanding, social communication, social imagination which is highly associated with routines, rituals and special interests.

 Girls are more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other children and copy them, perhaps masking the symptoms of Asperger syndrome.  Girls are often more aware of and feel a need to interact socially. They are involved in social play, but are often led by their peers rather than initiating social contact. Girls are more socially inclined and many have one special friend.

In our society, girls are expected to be social in their communication. Girls on the spectrum do not ‘do social chit chat’ or make ‘meaningless’ comments in order to facilitate social communication. The idea of a social hierarchy and how one communicates with people of different status can be problematic and get girls into trouble with teachers.

Evidence suggests that girls have more active imaginations and more pretend play. Many have a very rich and elaborate fantasy world with imaginary friends. Girls escape into fiction, and some live in another world with, for example, fairies and witches.

The interests of girls in the spectrum are very often similar to those of other girls – animals, horses, classical literature – and therefore are not seen as unusual. It is not the special interests that differentiate them from their peers but it is the quality and intensity of these interests. Many obsessively watch soap operas and have an intense interest in celebrities.

Signs of autism in girls

Social interaction:

  • boys with ASD tend not to appear motivated to be socially interactive, but girls on the spectrum do. However, girls have a history of failure in achieving and maintaining friendships
  • girls gravitate towards older girls, who tend to mother them and act as a form of social “protection”
  • girls may be socially immature and make a preference to play with much younger children who are not challenging and would allow the child with ASD to dominate play, giving them the predictability and control children with autism crave
  • girls with Asperger’s may “adopt” a less able peer, perhaps someone with a learning difficulty, who may themselves be marginalised so they are open to being dominated by the child with ASD
  • girls with Asperger’s may be unnecessarily dependent on their mother (or other primary carer) whom they regard as their best friend and confidante in a social world which they find challenging and frightening.

Social communication:

  • boys engage in disruptive behaviours, whereas girls may be persistently “ill” to gain what they want or control their situation
  • girls with ASD tend to act passively and ignore daily demands, while boys become disruptive in response
  • girls appear more able to concentrate than boys, who become distracted more easily and can be disruptive
  • girls tend to learn social behaviours by observation and copying, which can disguise their social deficits
  • girls may find the idea of social hierarchy difficult, so they can respond inappropriately to people in authority, such as teachers
  • children with ASD of both sexes need to learn the rules of “small talk” which they often find incomprehensible as a pastime. Girls’ difficulties tend to be masked by their passive behaviours and ability to mimic without understanding.

Social imagination:

  • parents may perceive their daughter as being non-specifically “odd”, but without being able to pinpoint the cause
  • imaginative play does exist, but it is intense in nature, often focused on stereotypical female interests, such as dolls, make-up, animals and celebrities – which is why girls with ASD may not seem that different to females not on the spectrum. The key is the intensity and quality of these special interests, which are exclusive, all-consuming and experienced in detail
  • children with ASD can engage in repetitive questioning well beyond the age that those who are not on the spectrum would normally do. They can exhibit poor empathic skills and a lack of social interest. They can also seem disinterested in the classroom and exhibit immature, impulsive and unusual behaviours. An inability to “move on”, even with basic matters, can be common – for example, not being happy to throw away old toys or clothes which the child has long since grown out of. This “cluttering” behaviour can outline their difficulties with change. While such types of behaviour may be common to both sexes, the ways in which they present can be different for boys and girls.

It seems that girls on the autistic spectrum may be less noticeable than boys because they are less disruptive and have an ability to mimic behaviours. However, they lack social understanding and any deep knowledge of language. This becomes increasingly obvious at secondary school level, when there are no younger children to associate with, when peer groups are more mixed and any “protection” may have dissolved. Additionally, multiple stimuli (such as crowds in corridors or screams in playgrounds) and changes to routines which occur at secondary education can increase individual anxiety greatly. Adolescence, involving unstoppable changes, such as menstruation and the growth of breasts and body hair, can profoundly affect girls with ASD, heightening anxieties due to lack of control over what is happening.

Mental health issues for girls

Anorexia nervosa has been called “female Asperger’s” because around one fifth of girls who present with anorexia have traits which are peculiar to the autistic spectrum; around 20 to 30 per cent of anorexic patients are perfectionists and demonstrate rigid modes of thinking and behaviour, which are common autistic traits. Anorexia offers girls with ASD what they perceive to be a positive outcome because lack of nutrition prevents menstruation and physical development.

It is not until puberty that girls’ social difficulties become more obvious, particularly as they enter secondary school when they can become the subject of bullying or can be generally marginalised and perceived as strange. Unlike boys, they become withdrawn, depressed and quiet, rather than aggressive.

Profound anxieties may be demonstrated in altered behaviours, lower grades at school, poor sleep patterns, low mood/depression and obsessive behaviour.

Research from 2011 found that many women who were later diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum initially were thought to have learning difficulties, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder or eating disorders. This differential diagnosis could be related to lack of awareness of how ASD present in females.

All research suggests that an early diagnosis of ASD, followed by appropriate interventions, will optimise the person’s life chances by increasing independence, understanding and accumulation of language and social abilities. To date, the ways in which females present with Asperger’s have not been thoroughly examined or used as the basis for diagnostic tools, which continue to be male dominated.

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