According to recent research, an increasing number of women and girls are beginning to realise that they may be autistic but their condition is invisible to those around them.
Indeed, recent studies show that 1 in 54 children is likely to be diagnosed with autism. While there has been an increase in the number of children receiving diagnoses in the past few years, it is probably not the case that more children are being born with autism. Instead, the increase in the diagnosis of ASD is most likely due to a growth in both education and awareness, as well as better access to testing. This education is so vital, both for those experiencing life with the condition and for those wanting to understand more, to empathise and assist wherever possible.
With that in mind, here are 5 simple ways to educate yourself on autism.
The internet is blessed with some brilliant resources on autism which can help you educate yourself and others, as well as engaging and participating with the community as a whole. Your first port of call should be the National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity of its kind and the largest provider of specialist services in the country. They work to support schools, employers and the community in providing a nurturing, welcoming environment for autistic people.
The Autism Education Trust is another great website providing loads of useful information on interactions between autism and education. Finally, registered charity Resources For Autism does exactly what its title suggests. Check it out.
AUTISM PARENT MAGAZINE
A recent article from Autism Parent Magazine explains how women often display different symptoms than their male counterparts, so it can be difficult for some to realise that they have autism. Autism in girls often represents itself differently, with girls more likely to use a form of “camouflaging”, which is a way that individuals with autism are able to mask their symptoms in social situations. Further engagement with this great magazine which aims to help and support parents with autistic children around the world, will help you educate yourself on these nuances and get informed about the myriad forms that autism and its associated conditions can take.
The website has previously won the Gold Mom’s Choice Award® for online resources in the category of Family/Parenting. You can subscribe to get Autism Parent’s monthly edition delivered straight to your door.
READ THESE BOOKS
Though online is where the majority of up to date information can be found, and is particularly useful for its community engagement aspect, there are also some brilliant books on autism out there, written by autistic authors, for those who don’t want to be glued to a screen and are looking to gain real value and insight from the page.
Some of our favourites of recent years include ‘Camouflage: The Hidden Lives Of Autistic Women’ by Dr Sarah Bargiela, which is a graphic novel dealing with the experience of being diagnosed later on in life, and the unique challenges and opportunities that presents. The superb ‘M is for Autism’ and ‘M in the Middle’ series, written by the students of Limpsfield Grange School, is also well worth your time, charting the journey of M, the central character, and her thoughts, feelings and perspectives on autism and the world around her. Lovely stuff.
There’s also a whole treasure trove of non-fiction books on autism if you’re keen to educate yourself further on the condition. ‘Look Me In The Eye’ by John Elder Robison describes growing up with Autism Spectrum Disorder in enlightening detail. Or, check out ‘The Autism Revolution’ by Dr Martha Herbert and Karen Weintraub which suggests new strategies for looking at autism and dealing with the challenges it can cause.
GET INVOLVED IN AUTISM CHARITIES
If you’re keen to do more than just educate yourself, and get actively involved in the community, then the Autism Alliance – a network of specialist charities in the UK – should be your first point of contract for information on furthering your engagement. It’s the umbrella organisation for several leading charities across more than a dozen counties in the country, and pledges to ‘support all, provide information for all, research into all and connect all’. We’re totally on board with that level of inclusivity.
BE SENSITIVE TO THE SIGNS
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that affects how individuals behave, socialise, interact, or communicate with others. There are various subtypes of this disorder, and a diagnosis of ASD can only be made by a licensed psychologist.
The levels of severity for each person with ASD can vary, which is why the disorder is viewed on a spectrum. Many people believe that ASD is more common in men than in women, but this belief could be due to the differences in symptoms and severity between them. Indeed, many women are misdiagnosed or are not diagnosed with ASD until later in life.
Women and girls with ASD may exhibit symptoms that look slightly different to men with ASD. For example, girls may be less likely to become hyper-focused on a subject or activity. Here are a few symptoms girls may be more likely to exhibit:
- Inability to adapt
- Difficulties with social interactions
- Emotional, cognitive, or language problems
- Behavioural issues such as aggression or acting out
- Anxiety or depression
- Sensitivity to fabrics, textures, or tags
What are some of the signs and symptoms of ASD?
In the past, individuals with ASD were usually seen as having behavioural issues or developmental problems. However, we now know that individuals with ASD are intelligent and capable individuals, but they may face challenges that those without ASD do not.
By the age of two, children usually start to show symptoms of ASD. Many individuals with autism experience sensory issues, such as a sensitivity to the way things feel or taste, or to loud sounds or bright lights. While ASD should only be diagnosed by a licensed psychologist, and no one’s experience with autism is the same, there are a few signs and symptoms to look for in children who may have the disorder:
- Many individuals with ASD have difficulty recognising social cues. Social cues are often used to express things beyond words, and can include expressions, body language, tone of voice, or personal space.
- Individuals with ASD may have trouble making friends or simply express a preference for being alone. Because children with ASD can have difficulty reading social cues, they may also find it difficult to hold conversations with their peers.
- It is common for individuals with ASD to have difficulty making eye contact. An early indicator for ASD in children is also an inability to consistently respond to their name.
- For those with ASD, speech problems can mean many things. Some individuals with autism may be difficult to understand, talk very little or not at all, or repeat certain words or phrases they hear.
- Individuals with ASD often have aversions to certain foods, either because of taste or texture. Some children with ASD prefer to only eat foods of a certain color, while others might only eat crunchy or smooth foods.
- A child with autism may develop an intense interest, such as an interest in trains or cameras, and then immerse themselves solely in that interest.
- Repetitive movements for children with ASD can include rocking back and forth and spinning in circles. It can also include things like arm flapping or even head-banging.
- Individuals with ASD will have difficulty adjusting when their regular routines are changed.
- Children with ASD can have developmental delays. For example, if a child cannot wave goodbye or point to things after 15 months, that may be an early sign of ASD.