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

Dealing with the Ignorance of Autism

I am not ashamed of my autism. Autism is a part of me and I don’t want it cured. Yes, most days it makes life much more difficult than it should be. It intensifies sounds and sights, it makes me socially awkward, it sometimes makes me feel like an outcast. It makes things confusing; I misread things or process things poorly.  It causes extreme meltdowns where I become non-verbal, child-like and engage in self-injurious behaviours. However, it also gives me a unique perception of the world. It gives me motivation to pursue interests. It develops my love of music and learning the piano. It makes me empathetic, aware of others and surroundings and an outlook on life that no neurotypical person would have.

Unfortunately, Autism awareness in this world is poor. When I first got diagnosed with Autism in October 2017, mostly people were accepting. There were a few who said ‘well, you don’t look autistic’ but they were simply uneducated. Most people treated me no different but began to see why I had seemed so different my whole life. I thought Autism acceptance and awareness was good…until things began to go wrong.

When you need support for Autism there is very little knowledge. My friends know more about Autism and autistic meltdowns and behaviours more than professionals do…and that is truly frightening. When a paramedic misreads stimming behaviour as trying ‘to be violent to others’ and as a ‘mental health case’…or a ER nurse puts your ‘mannerisms’ down to ‘unusual behaviour’ and spends the next 15 minutes trying to understand from your friend what autism and stimming is, it is honestly disheartening. These are people that will come across many autistic people in their day to day lives. Paramedics, nurses, doctors, first aid staff and university staff….all who should know at least what Autism is but absolutely have no idea…from my experiences.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.

The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behaviour and is sometimes also called “stereotypic” behaviour. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviours that include hand- flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases.  People with autism stim to help themselves to manage anxiety, fear, anger, excitement, anticipation, and other strong emotions. They also stim to help themselves handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc.). There are also times when people stim out of habit, just as neurotypical people bite their nails, twirl their hair, or tap their feet out of habit. At times, stimming can be a useful accommodation, making it possible for the autistic person to manage challenging situations. When it becomes a distraction, creates social problems, or causes physical harm to self or others, though, it can get in the way of daily life.

PLEASE be Autism aware and educate yourself on ‘normal’ autism behaviours. People in authority should not have to put autistic people in danger because they lack understanding or knowledge…it only takes a small amount of time to listen and learn. 

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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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autism · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized

Living with Autism: World Autism Day

April the 2nd 2017 is World Autism Awareness Day 2017!

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

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 All my life, I knew I was “different.” As a child, I was described as shy. I had “temper tantrums” frequently. I found it difficult to make friends, couldn’t make eye contact, found it hard to speak to others, and struggled with both social skills and communication skills — even confidence. I remember going through primary school with severe anxiety. As I went through each year, it became harder and harder to make friends. I remember feeling so different from my peers that I tried to change myself in order to be accepted. Eventually, as an 11-year-old, I was diagnosed with mental health difficulties. I let myself accept the reason I was so different was because of the difficulties associated with my mental illnesses.

That was until my mental health disability adviser turned to me one day during one of our meetings and mentioned the word “autism.” Of course, I had heard of autism. As a student who is training to be a special needs teacher, I have come across many children who have been diagnosed with autism. I have done academic research and even essays on the disorder. So when my disability adviser turned to me and mentioned the word in relation to myself, I paused for a second. In this stigmatised world, autism may be seen as something most often associated with children. Many of the children I had come across with autism faced challenges and most were nonverbal. Though I struggle with everyday tasks, I have always put this down to my mental health challenges.

Despite my doubts, my disability adviser handed me an AQ-10, an autism-spectrum quotient questionnaire, to fill in. I scored 10 out of 10. An autism referral is strongly suggested when a person scores six or above. Once she had my consent, she registered me for a referral with an autism assessment charity, and the journey began. I realised most of the behaviours I had put down to my mental illnesses were pretty consistent with those associated with autism spectrum disorder. Although I communicate, I have difficulty reading expressions or body language. Although I know you’re there, I cannot make eye contact. I am hyper-aware of my senses; I am either too stimulated or under-stimulated, which leads to repetitive movements known as stimming (rocking, hand-flapping, knee-bouncing) and meltdowns that last for hours. I like tactile objects and explore with my hands. I cannot deal with social gatherings or being outside of the house. I cannot ride public transport or leave the house effectively. People sometimes feel I am selfish or short-fused; I have meltdowns when I cannot deal with my emotions and struggle to understand when you are not OK. Time is a big thing for me. Routines and timetables are the centre of my life. I cannot hold down a job, despite being able to do it. Though it may not appear to be so, I struggle every single day.

Autism is a broad spectrum. On March the 22nd 2017 I was diagnosed with informal Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. A final paper diagnosis assessment will be in the next few months.  However, I feel already I have learned so much about myself through this that I had never learned before. I feel as though autism explains my life, and I am not ashamed of that.

Having a diagnosis of autism does not limit the possibility of being something amazing.

I may be different, but I am not less.

#autismawareness

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

World Autism Awareness Week [2017]

The 27th March to the 2nd April 2017 is World Autism Awareness Week.

The term ‘autism’ is used here to describe all diagnostic profiles, including Asperger syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).Without understanding, autistic people and their families are at risk of being isolated and developing mental health problems.

Autism is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100. If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.

Autism doesn’t just affect children. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Autism is a hidden disability – you can’t always tell if someone is autistic. While autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.

70% of autistic adults say that they are not getting the help they need from social services. 70% of autistic adults also told us that with more support they would feel less isolated. At least one in three autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support. Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and only 32% are in some kind of paid work.

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What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

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How can you help?

You can help autistic people and their families by:

  • spreading understanding about autism – sign up to support the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information campaign
  • donating to the National Autistic Society so they can continue to give millions of people information and advice about support
  • Talking about autism on social media and to friends and family
  • Sharing this blog post

 

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

Today I got some diagnoses..

So, my specific learning difficulties assessment report came back today. The report is long and confusing but after analysing, I feel somewhat more reassured.

The report states that I scored well below average in many areas apart from literacy and reading and particularly struggled with memory and concentration.

I got 3 diagnoses.

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Disorder.

I have also been referred to an adult Autism assessment as this is informally diagnosed and is highly likely. Autism covers all symptoms listed in the above disorders as well as anxiety and low mood.

I feel relieved to finally know what difficulties i’ve got and how to tackle them, as well as getting some extra help at uni. I’m just a little unsure on how I feel overall about this at the moment, even though deep down I kind of knew.

Information on these disorders will be provided below so you guys can understand and educate others 🙂

I’m the same person I was before these diagnoses and always will be.

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Autism/ASD

High-functioning autism (now called Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with more severe forms of autism. People with Autism have difficulties in social communication and interaction, may engage in repetitive behaviours and routines, have highly focused interests, and have sensory sensitivity. People with autism also see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. Autism is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured.

Some symptoms include:

  • trouble detecting social cues and body language
  • difficulty with maintaining conversations and knowing when it is their turn to speak
  • Appearing to lack empathy for other people and their feelings. Some people can appear to be introverted and almost aloof
  • Dislikes changes in routines
  • Employs a formal style of speaking using complex words or phrases despite not fully understanding their meaning
  •  unable to recognise subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech
  • difficulty when playing games which require the use of imagination
  •  limited range of interests which he or she may be very knowledgeable about
  •  poor handwriting and late development in motor skills such as catching a ball or using a knife and fork
  • heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures

Dyspraxia 

Developmental coordination disorder, also known as developmental dyspraxia or simply dyspraxia,is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. It affects 5 to 6 percent of school-aged children. This disorder progresses to adulthood, therefore making it a lifelong condition. Developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially working memory. This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organising one’s time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking).

ADD/ADHD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterised by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour which is not appropriate for a person’s age. These symptoms begin by age six to twelve, are present for more than six months, and cause problems in at least two settings (such as school, home, or recreational activities).

Symptoms include:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty maintaining focus on one task
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organising and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Seem to not be listening when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions
  • Have trouble understanding minute details

Dyscalculia 

Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be significantly below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities or by intellectual impairments.

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

Massive Sensory Overload

Today’s just one of those days. Way too anxious, way too tired. Sensory overload came over me this morning in full swing. Even the power of headphones did not stop all the different senses getting too much. I’m putting it down to lack of sleep, alcohol and medication.

I was supposed to go shopping. I was supposed to buy food for the week ahead, buy some envelopes and post a letter. I forgot to get off my stop on the bus not once but three times…so I decided to get off in town. I forgot completely about what I needed to do. I made it to tesco (a 5 minute walk that consisted of too many voices, too many cars, too many tapping feet on the pavement, construction guys throwing tools around and my own breathing) but my shopping list consisted of just mushrooms because I forgot all that I needed. I wandered around the shop for a bit before realising I had to pay. I then caught the bus back…

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The entire time I couldn’t breathe. The minute I left my flat this morning I felt like a boa constrictor was perched on my throat. My chest was so weak and hollow, my breaths were fast. All I could focus on was every single noise, every single image and person. Everything but my mind. It was like walking through a dream. I completely forgot the reason why I was going out in the first place. However, I made it to a to b and eventually back to a…but my goodness. What a morning.

Sensory overloads are horrendous. Sensory overloads or meltdowns occur when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. Examples include; crowded places, noise, people, too much information, visual overload.


Oversensitive Sensitivities

Sound

  •  Noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled.
  • May be able to hear conversations in the distance.
  • Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

Touch

  • Touch can be painful and uncomfortable – people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others.
  • Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.

Sight

  • Distorted vision – objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.
  • Images may fragment.
  • Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.

Helping someone in Sensory Overload

If someone is having a meltdown, or not responding, don’t judge them. There are things that you can do to help. This can make a world of difference.

Often, small changes to the environment can make a difference. Creating a sensory profile may help you to work out what changes are needed. Three points to remember are:

  • be aware. Look at the environment to see if it is creating difficulties. Can you change anything?. Watch the person closely – changes in behaviour or indicators of distress may be small. Watch breathing patterns, especially.
  • be creative. Think of some positive sensory experiences.
  • be prepared. Tell the person about possible sensory stimuli they may experience in different environments.
  • be calm. People in sensory overload are feeling very distressed and anxious so staying calm may help them relax. Offer comfort if the person wants it (touch or words) and move away from the area that is causing distress. Be patient and wait for the sensory overload to finish.
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

#ThisIsMe Project

I’ve decided to set up a project that allows others to express their thoughts and feelings. I understand that it can be difficult to set up a blog and led the entire world read your deepest thoughts and feelings, which is why I created the #ThisIsMe Project. The project will share the stories of others on this blog. You can remain totally anonymous which means you can blog to your hearts content and share your views without feeling exposed!

This project is open to anybody who suffers from a condition and who wants to share their story. Conditions can range from mental health conditions and illness, autism spectrum disorders and sensory disorders.

Interested or want to know more?

Email savannahaliciax@gmail.com now!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Ps, please share this blog post to let others know about the project!

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