In the UK autism effects roughly 1 in 100 people.
It affects people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. It doesn’t make any distinction what-so-ever over who you are or the kind of upbringing you’ve had. The only discrimination it makes at all is autism is more common in men than women.
There is no confirmed cause for autism but many believe it’s a combination of factors including genetics and environment. Potentially the latter exacerbating the former.
Living with austim is a little bit like you’re from a parallel universe. Whilst on the surface you’re no different from everyone else, you just don’t quite fit in.
Individuals with autism can find the world an overwhelming place. Whereas the majority of people without autism instinctively know how to interact with one another, those with autism struggle.
They often describe themselves as feeling different or misunderstood when the reality is that their perception of the world is subtly yet profoundly different from those who do not live with autism.
They find it hard to relate to others with things like sarcasm, tone of voice and facial expressions failing to register whilst outwardly they themselves can appear insensitive and standoffish.
Many misinterpret these behaviours as cold or abrupt to the point of rude. This can make realtionships a real challenge considering they’re missing out on a number of interpersonal prompts.
A successful diagnosis can help people with autisim and their circle of support understand why they experience things differently and the difficulties that can cause.
This can often mean teaching individuals a set of ‘guidelines’ to help them respond appropriately to social situations that they would either feel uncomfortable in or oblivious too.
The Ben Affleck movie The Accountant depicts an autistic maths savant who uses routine, strict structures and a similar set of guidelines to help him interact successfully with his clients. Even then he misses a number of conversational qeueus and displays obsessive behaviours when under stress.
Needless to say, living with autism is hard and anxiety is a common byproduct.
One of the biggest problems is helping individuals recognise their own emotions, particularly when anxiety levels are high. An inability to recognise their anxiety makes it difficult for them to deescalate or remove themselves from situations they find distressing.
Individuals with anxiety can feel a loss of control, isolation, low mood, fatigue and a raft of other symptoms. For those with autism, these sensations can be amplified making attacks all the more severe and recovery time longer.
Strategies for managing anxiety can vary from methods like the reflection techniques we’ve discussed on our blog, to creating meltdown prevention plans.
Relaxation techniques built into a daily routine can be a huge help whether that’s a relaxing bath, peaceful music, ambient lights, yoga, painting or going for exercise.
It doesn’t really matter what the technique is so long as it works for the individual.
One of the biggest challenges people with autisim is coping with confrontation. This in itself can cause tremendous anxiety so identifying ways of allowing them to articulate what they don’t like constructively is key.
Devising ways of communicating anxious feelings allows them to work through the situation. Something like a colour code or score of out ten allows them and their circle of support to quantify their emotional state and in so doing, take appropriate action.
Living with autism or being part of their support circle is an on going and challenging experience. Encompass is committed to supporting individuals with autism and those with learning disabilities and enduring mental health issues lead happy and fulfilled lives.