What are Autism Spectrum Conditions?
Characteristics of the autism spectrum are part of the rich diversity of the human mind. There have been shifts in recent years towards embracing each person’s attributes and uniqueness. Assessments help identify strengths and skills, as well as suggesting adaptations and strategies to help the person cope with stressful aspects of daily life and work towards their own goals.
More than 1 in every 100 people meet the criteria for an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Some famous people who identify as on the Autism Spectrum include Chris Packham, Wildlife presenter; Anthony Hopkins, Actor; Guy Martin, Motorcycle racer; Susan Boyle, Singer; Daryl Hannah, Actress; Niall Aslam, Love Island contestant.
Every individual is different and will have many strengths and skills, but the term means that a person has difficulty in the following key areas:
* Spoken communication – making conversation, and understanding what other people say and mean
* Non spoken communication – body language, eye contact, facial expressions
* Understanding the complexities of social relationships
* Finding change difficult, very fixed interests, and can be extra sensitive to the senses such as sound.
Some people who are on the Autistic Spectrum have been diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome in the past. People with a diagnosis of Aspergers’ usually have strong spoken skills, but find social situations and change in routines difficult. New guidelines suggest using the term ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder or Condition’.
Tailored assessment and support
You may be concerned about your child’s ability to make friends, to communicate or to manage with changes in routines, at home or at school. Many people reach adult life and have gone through school, work or university without their ASC being diagnosed, and seek clarity for themselves. The assessment process helps to assess strengths and difficulties in the different social areas that can be affected by ASC, to help determine how to tailor future support and build on existing skills.
I am able to offer advice on whether a formal assessment would be helpful. I assess children from school age upwards, teenagers and adults. An assessment involves a discussion about daily life and early childhood, and then an activity and conversation based assessment called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). When possible I speak with a parent or carer to gather information on the person’s childhood development using a structured interview. I also offer a cognitive assessment to assess verbal reasoning, visual reasoning, processing speed and memory skills which helps identify the best way to tailor support.
Best practice guidelines suggest that assessments for possible autism spectrum conditions are multi-disciplinary i.e. involve professionals from more than one training background. Therefore I consult with an experienced Speech and Language Therapist who is trained in using the ADOS. With permission she watches a video of the ADOS to give specialist feedback on the person’s use of language and communication.
Often children, teenagers and adults with ASC find that they are not getting enough ongoing support to help manage the demands of education, work and family life. If this affects you, you may find that you have become anxious or depresssed, or have lost confidence. It is possible to learn many skills to help with these difficulties and to lead a happy and fulfilling life, such as social skills training and cognitive behavioural therapy.
For more information or to discuss options for support, please contact me.
There is also helpful information on the National Autistic Society website: www.autism.org.uk