What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disability which affects the way people interact with others and how they perceive the world around them; it lasts for life. Those who have autism see, hear and feel the world around them differently to others. Autism isn’t a disease or illness with a cure and it carries on being a part of someone’s life, as part of their identity, all the way through.
Autism is what is known as a spectrum condition, this means that all autistic people share specific difficulties, but autism will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning difficulties, issues with mental health or a range of other conditions – as such people require different levels and forms of support. Autistic people learn and develop at different rates, and with the right help can live a fulfilling life in a way that suits them.
It’s thought around 700,000 people in the UK suffer from autism – over 1 in 100 people. All nationalities and cultures can be affected; as well as those from a wide variety of social and religious backgrounds. Research has showed that more males than females suffer with autism.
Signs of Autism
There are a range of signs of autism, and although different people have characteristics which vary usually there are some areas which are common. They fall into a few key areas:
- Social interaction – people with autism often experience a difficulty in reading people and understanding or recognising their feelings and intentions. They may also struggle to express their own emotions. Often those with autism seem insensitive, seek alone time if there is too much going on socially, avoid seeking comfort from others or potentially behave in a way that may be seen as inappropriate. Friendship can be hard for autistic people as they often want to make friends and interact with others but are unsure how.
- Social Communication – interpreting verbal and non verbal language is another area where those with autism can struggle. Gestures and tone of voice are not picked up in the same way and spoken language is often taken literally. Autistic people often struggle with jokes and sarcasm. Some people who have autism may have limited speech or not speak at all. Often their understanding of speech is better than their own ability to express themselves. Others with autism may have good language skills, but don't fully grasp what others would expect from a conversation (sometimes repeating the other person or simply talking about themselves).
- Repetition and Routine – those with autism like to have a sense of routine and structure to their lives. Be that having the same food for breakfast, or going the same way to a place. Rules are important and the idea of changing things from the way they usually behave can often cause them distress.
- Focused interests – often those with autism will have highly focused interests, which start at a young age. It can be anything and varies greatly, from everyday hobbies to the more obscure. Interests can also change over time throughout a person’s life. With encouragement and support, these focused interests can be used for work and meaningful occupation.
- Sensory sensitivity – those who have autism can have differing degrees of sensitivity to sensory stimulation – some may be oversensitive and others may be undersensitive. This can relate to anything from sounds, to touch, taste, pain, colours, light or temperatures. Some people may find specific sounds or weather conditions unbearable, others may have a fixation with specific lights or sounds.
Sensory Solutions that Help Coping With Autism
There is no cure for autism. Instead it is necessary to adopt a range of strategies to manage situations, and this can include sensory solutions. Greater understanding will help you to cope better with situations, and applying some of the following sensory techniques will help make the person in your care with autism explore their senses better.
A profound effect is often noticed when autistic individuals regularly experience scheduled time in a multi-sensory environment.
It can be said that individuals on the autism spectrum ‘live in a world of their own’. This can be because they're attempting to focus but are struggling to know which incoming information to use and which to 'filter out'. They may also then have difficulty with social skills and communication. Yet spending regular time in a sensory room with softened lights, projected images, fibre optics and bubble tubes, in addition to digital sound and aromatherapy can help filter out much of the incoming extraneous sensory information for them, allowing them the ability to organise and often then begin to communicate and integrate information.
Experia provides a wide range of solutions to help a range of institutions, as well as providing products for use in an individual’s home. Our high quality sensory products and sensory rooms are carefully designed and manufactured to help reduce anxiety, extraneous movements and sensory blockage while encouraging communication, speech and socialisation.
If you want to know more about how Experia can help you with your specific sensory needs, then contact us today!