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What is Autism?

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that adversely affects social interaction and communication. Those affected with ASD can demonstrate repetitive behaviours and unusual interests, with many people experiencing unusual ways of learning, being attentive and reacting to different sensations.

An individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder interacts with other people in a different way to the general population. If the symptoms aren’t severe, the person with autism spectrum disorder could appear socially clumsy, occasionally offensive in his/her comments, or out of sync with everybody else. If the symptoms are particularly severe, the person could appear to be bored with others.

It is common for relatives, friends and people who interact with someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder to comment that the ASD sufferer makes very little eye contact. However, as health care professionals, teachers and others are improving their ability to detect signs of autism at an earlier age than before, eye contact among people with autism is improving. In several cases, if the symptoms aren’t severe, the person may be tutored that eye contact is vital for many individuals and he/she will bear in mind to look people in the eye.

A person with autism likes predictability. Routine is their ally. Going through the motions, again and again, is an important part of his/her life. To others, these repetitive behaviours could seem like eccentric rites. The repetitive behaviour might be a straightforward hop-skip-jump from one end of the area to the other, recurrent for one, five, ten minutes – or perhaps longer. Another can be drawing a similar picture over and over, page after page.

People without autism are far more adjustable to changes in procedure. A child without autism could also be quite happy first to have a shower, brush his teeth, and then put on his pyjamas before going to bed – albeit if the order is changed, there is no behavioural effect. For a child with autism, any alteration in routine could result in an outburst or meltdown. Some individuals believe that helping a child with autism learn how to cope better with change could be a sensible thing. However, forcing them to accept change as others do, may adversely affect their quality of life.
A person with autism typically finds abrupt loud noises unpleasant, and quite surprising. The same can happen with some smells and unforeseen changes in the intensity of lighting and ambient temperature.

Many believe it’s not so much the particular noise, smell or light, rather the surprise, and not having the ability to prepare for it – just like the response to unexpected physical contact.

If the person with autism knows something is going to happen, he can deal with it far better. Even knowing that something ‘might’ happen, and being reminded of it, helps a lot.

What Isn’t Autism?

Many children who exhibit more severe cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, usually share several of the characteristics and features of children at the high-functioning/Asperger’s end of the autism spectrum — notably in the areas of communication, social integration, and behaviour. Some children get diagnosed with one of the disorders and then receive the other diagnosis later.

Symptoms of both autism and ADHD include issues with organisation, sensory issues, attention, and social skills. However, the delay in acquiring a language that occurs with severe autism isn’t consistent with ADHD.

Other syndromes which will look a little like Autism, but aren’t Autism, include the following: Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, William’s Syndrome, Down’s Syndrome and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. (Note: some of these syndromes could occur with autism or be mistaken for autism; people can have more than one disorder at a time).

How Is Autism Diagnosed?

Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the three separate diagnoses, Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (not otherwise specified) have been incorporated into one single diagnosis, referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder will be given based on difficulties in 2 areas: 1) Social Communication, and 2) Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour, Interests and Activities.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual requires that a severity rating is applied to both domains of impairment, ranging from Level one – Requiring Support, to Level three – Requiring very Substantial Support.

Clinicians can diagnose 2 or more disorders in addition to Autism, such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, and specific language disorders, to allow for an additional comprehensive description of an individual’s presentation.

If you think that your child could have autism, it’s vital that you check with a medical professional, this would be your General Practitioner(GP) or paediatrician in the first instance.

Many families who have a child with an incapacity or developmental delay find it useful to see a paediatrician regularly. Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in caring for children. They understand the nature, severity, long-run outlook and causes of disability in children, and manage any complications that may arise. Access to paediatricians is via referral from your local general practitioner.

For many families, the identification of a child’s disability is a gradual process that happens over several months or years. For a few children, an exact diagnosis of a specific condition or disability is possible. For others, the diagnosis of a particular condition may not be possible or may be reliant on additional tests and observations in future years.
It is typically wise to have additional assessments as your child grows, as technology and expertise are continuing to advance. Keep a diary or log of your child’s development and behavioural characteristics, as over time it becomes troublesome to recollect and report things accurately at future medical appointments.

Autism Treatment Choices

While there’s no identified cure for autism, there are treatment and education approaches that may address some the challenges associated with the condition. Intervention can reduce disruptive behaviour, and education can teach self-help skills for greater independence. However, just as there’s no one symptom or behaviour that identifies people with autism, there’s no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum. Individuals can use the positive aspects of their condition to their benefit. However, treatment should begin as early as possible and focus on the individual’s distinctive strengths, weaknesses and needs.

Medicines – Medicines are most often used to treat related conditions and problem behaviours, together with depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.

Specialised Therapies – These embody speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy. These therapies are vital elements of managing autism and should all be included in the child’s treatment program. Speech therapy can help a child with autism improve language and social skills, to speak more effectively. Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy will help improve any deficiencies in coordination and motor skills. Occupational therapy may also help a child with autism to learn to process information from the senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways.

Behavioural coaching and management – behavioural coaching and management use positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to enhance behaviour and communication. Many varieties of treatments have been developed, together with Applied Behavioural Analysis, Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication disabled children, and sensory integration.

How Does JettProof Work?

The term ‘Sensory Processing’ refers to our ability to take in information through our senses, and to organise and interpret that information, and make a meaningful response. The seven senses are fundamental to a child’s ability to learn & function in any environment. For those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), there is a range of sensory sensitivities, from hyper (over responsive) to hypo (under responsive) reactions to the sensory input. These reactions can have a major impact on behaviour in response to sensory stimulation.

The Vestibular System is important for balance, coordination, eye control, attention, being secure with movement and some aspects of language development. It is composed of receptors in the inner ear, and connections between them and other areas in the central nervous system.

Proprioception is the process by which the body utilises receptors in the muscles to track the position of joints in the body (JettProof provides sensory compression which provides proprioceptive feedback to the wearer). The proprioceptive sense is composed of information from sensory neurones located in the inner ear (motion and orientation) and the stretch receptors located in the muscles and the joint-supporting ligaments.

A neurotypical person can move a part of their body, such as a hand or foot, and without looking can know what that part is doing and where it is in space. Proprioception makes this easy to do. Without proprioception, the brain cannot feel what the body part is doing, and the process must be carried out in more conscious and calculated steps, using vision to compensate for the lost feedback. A recent example was a woman with Autism who needed to look at her feet to navigate stairs, not just to see the stairs, but because she did not have the proprioceptive feedback to know the position of her feet.

These mechanisms along with the vestibular system, a fluid filled network within the inner ear that can feel the pull of gravity and helps the body keep oriented and balanced, are used by the brain to provide a constant input of sensory information. The brain can then make unconscious adjustments to the muscles and joints to achieve movement and balance.

JettProof provides sensory input to help calm, soothe and support self-regulation. JettProof also provides proprioceptive input which is organising and regulating the nervous system. JettProof also aids in filtering sensory information to improve the ability to listen and learn.

JettProof Singlets and Shirts provide a gentle ‘hug’ around the chest, shoulders and torso. This has a calming effect and provides proprioceptive input which is organising and regulating the nervous system.

JettProof Shorts provide sensory compression, so a child can sit and listen much more easily. They are especially useful for children who require proprioceptive feedback and lack body awareness.

  • Post author
    Michelle Ebbin