Category: Autism Facts and Myths

Environmental Hazards That May Be Linked To Autism

The causes of autism are still not fully understood, but experts generally agree that environmental factors play a role. While genetics influence the chances of developing autism, exposure to certain chemicals early in life may also contribute towards this developmental disorder.

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Given that scientists need to do more research on what causes autism, the exact link between certain chemicals and autism is still unclear. However, reducing your child’s exposure to these chemicals is always recommended. These substances are generally toxic to the nervous system and other parts of the body. By taking some simple steps, you can drastically reduce the amounts of these toxins that you and your family receive.

Pesticides

Many food items, such as produce, may contain significant amounts of pesticides on their surfaces. The agriculture industry uses pesticides to avoid crop damage from insects and other animals, preventing product losses. Many of these chemicals are designed to linger so that doses don’t need to be applied as often. Unfortunately, this design also allows these chemicals to resist degradation from natural processes, allowing them to travel far and wide.

Unborn children and babies are susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pesticides. Left unabated, exposure can lead to neurological defects and poor development. A study found that pregnant women living within 2 kilometers from a sprayed field were up to 16% more likely to have a child with autism.

Fortunately, you can reduce pesticide exposure by rinsing your vegetables thoroughly with clean water. Better yet, you can buy from organic vendors and other sources that do not use pesticides.

Heavy Metals

Mercury and lead are potent agents that can harm brain cells. The body mistakes them as essential minerals like calcium. Hence, they can go inside vital organs like the brain, where they proceed to wreak havoc. Effects include poor language development and impaired emotion regulation, which are hallmarks of autism.

Mercury tends to bioaccumulate in animals such as fish because their organs can’t remove them effectively. When we eat contaminated fish, mercury can slowly build up inside our bodies and reach dangerous levels.

Lead was once a common ingredient of paints, so old buildings tend to have large amounts of this metal. As the paint flakes off and disintegrates into dust, the particles can be inhaled or ingested by young children.

To avoid exposure, it’s a good idea to limit the consumption of high-risk fish such as shark or tuna. You should also have old paints replaced or move out of aging residences.

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Plastic Additives

Chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates are used to modify the properties of plastics, making them more durable and easy to manufacture. However, these substances can block the function of naturally occurring hormones in the body. Their most common effects include abnormalities in reproductive development, but they may also be significant in the development of autism.

To reduce exposure, check the type of plastic that you use around your children. If they have recycling codes 3, 4, or 7, you should probably stay away from them. Better yet, use products that guarantee to be free of phthalates and bisphenol A. Reducing consumption of packaged and processed food is also a good idea.

By being wary of these environmental hazards, you may better prevent your child from developing autism. What’s sure is that your child will have a healthier life.

Benefits Of Counseling For Parents With Autistic Children

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Fostering an autistic child is both challenging and rewarding.

Honestly, there is no secret recipe or special powers required to be successful in raising a child who falls on the autism spectrum. However, there is a specific way to help manage the symptoms, provide further understanding, and accumulate appropriate skills to navigate around the challenging world of autistic childcare, and it’s called counseling.

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How Children With Autism Benefit From Speech Therapy

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Almost everyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is advised to take speech therapy. The reason for this is that many children with ASD have compromised or limited speech and have a hard time forming words and sentences. At the same time, they also confront major non-verbal communication problems such as maintaining eye contact and playing with other people. For these reasons, speech therapy has many benefits for children with autism.

“Traditionally, intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused upon reducing interfering behavior and teaching language, academic and self-help skills.” –Marlene Driscoll, MA, LMFT

Develops The Ability To Express Their Needs

These children sometimes have a hard time expressing both their want and needs. Sometimes, they do not learn spoken language bit by bit; instead, they do it in “chunks.” For example, they repeat these long chunks of sentences from their favorite TV shows and stories without fully understanding what these mean. Experts call this disorder echolalia.

With the help of speech therapy, they learn how to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people and exchange ideas with their peers properly. It is crucial in building relationships not only in the comforts of their home but also outside of it.

Improves Grammar

Some children with ASD have a difficult time applying correct grammar even if it’s taught both in school and at home. The most common grammar mistake they do is referring to themselves in the third person. For example, instead of saying, “I want to eat cereals,” they’ll say, “John wants cereals.” With this in mind, speech therapists target this skill and guide them into correcting these grammar mistakes.

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Helps Them Understand What Others Say To Them

One of the difficulties of having ASD is the inability to comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication that other people try to tell you. Speech therapy teaches them to recognize cues such as facial expressions and body languages and translate these to understandable messages. Speech therapy also gives them the capability to initiate individual and group communication without having to wait for others to do so.

“It is painful and difficult to identify, because so many neurotypical partners see these as problems existing within in themselves, rather than as their reactions to confusion, to feeling systematically ignored, or to feeling not heard for many years.” –Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC

Assists Their Articulation Skills

Aside from improving their comprehension, speech therapy also targets the improvement of the children’s articulation skills. Articulation refers to the physical movement of the lips, palate, tongue, and jaw. All of these parts should be able to coordinate correctly to produce speech sounds.

However, it is challenging to work these parts together in the presence of ASD. Therefore, speech therapists guide the child to produce sound patterns or speech sounds to improve his or her overall speech intelligibility.

Addresses Speech Fluency

Children with ASD experience various communication disorders like interjections, prolongations, and repetitions. Displaying these behaviors tends to lower their self-confidence. With the help of speech therapy for autism, the patients learn strategies on how to increase their speech fluency and control their stutters.

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“Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”,socially and otherwise.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. Just like other medical diagnoses, the earlier you detect and treat speech problems, the higher the chances of addressing them thoroughly. Usually, children utter their first words around their 18th month and form basic phrases and sentences on their 24th month. It means that autism is detectable at the age of 3. Therefore, it is recommended to start therapy early for it to be more beneficial and useful for children with autism.

Therapists Talks About Autism And Object Attachment

Autism is a common mental condition in the US. Experts like therapists and psychologists view the mental illness as something that significantly affects a person’s development. Its signs and symptoms are the avoidance of eye contact, delayed speech, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions, and unexpected reactions with sounds, sight, and smell. But one of the most unnoticed symptoms is an individual’s strange attachment to an object. It may not sound an issue for some, but there is a psychological explanation as to why it is becoming a determining factor.

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An individual with an autism spectrum disorder experiences an object attachment. As explained by John Strang, Psy.D. “Young people with autism are very good at “getting stuck” and being less flexible.” However, no one seems to get bothered by it. Perhaps it is because people look at it is as something familiar for most individuals without even having a mental illness.  But the way autistic people feel about a particular possession is beyond sentimental perspective. Yes, it is not comparable to a life and death situation. But it is something that affects someone’s way of living. Like for example, if an autistic person tends to have a teddy bear, he will most likely keep it close to him all the time. It will become more of a comforting object. Honestly, you can expect it to be an individual’s possession that certainly lasts for more than a couple of years.

Autistic’s Object Attachment

An autistic’s object attachment is not at all harmful. However, it somehow depicts obsession. That is because the comfort that the individual feels whenever he is with the object gets channeled in it. The person feels an emotional connection that nobody can explain.

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In some cases, it becomes helpful because it can change an individual’s mood in an instant. Like for example, if children are scared and lonely, they feel safe around their dolls and toys. However, the situation is not different when we talk about the loss of a valued possession. In some unfortunate cases, the loss of that particular item causes severe anxiety and depression to an individual because he feels lost without it. There are instances that he won’t eat, talk, and get out of bed without the proof of his possessions existence. It is as if the whole world only revolves around that particular item. With that, an autistic person finds it hard to recover from the emotional damage that nobody seems to understand.

What Autistic People Feel

Object attachment affects an autistic individual in different ways. “People with ASD can have problems controlling their aggression and says it is not uncommon for these clients, sometimes including adults, to pull her hair or scratch her arms.” Stephanie Smigiel, LPC said. There is a tendency the person gets to feel uncomfortable with his surroundings too. Sometimes he can’t seem to concentrate without his stuff by his side. There are even cases where an autistic feel upset and angry when someone is trying to use his precious belonging or want to look at it. Sometimes, there is a point where an autistic individual become violent, especially if their valued possession gets taken without permission. That is because the thought of it getting broken and damaged is scarier than the idea of losing it.

Honestly, the emotional dilemma is hard to put into words. And sometimes, even if it gets fixed by someone, an autistic person does not immediately feel okay. That is because he thinks that the fixed item will never be the same. The thought of it getting broken will never leave an autistic person’s head, and he will entirely think about it over and over. Another example of a scenario where people are so insensitive about an autistic’s emotional and mental state is when he is playing with Lego. Yes, those are toys that are meant to be broken down into pieces. However, an autistic finds himself feeling troubled about his valued possession getting destroyed. And even though it is fixable, the idea that it gets ruined will stick and mess with his mind.

Official Diagnosis

There is no concrete diagnosis of object attachment in autism spectrum disorder. “Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder.”  Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC explains. However, a lot of individuals with the same mental condition share the same trait. Yes, there are criteria for determining the signs and symptoms of autism. But some of the unnoticed categorical attributes somehow falls in a mild end that goes up to severe cases. Unfortunately, this is where the confusion comes in.

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Insight

There is no particular description as to where and where an autistic individual would flip when someone else is trying to get a hold of his possession. But one thing is for sure. It is hard for an autistic to try and keep things as controlled as possible. That is because the amount of psychological distress that it gives, even if it’s a little thing, can make an emotional and mental recovery impossible.

Tips On Becoming A Teacher To A Child With Autism

There are many great reasons why a lot of people want to become teachers. The truth is that it can be fulfilling to teach children and be the source of guidance and inspiration from them. However, the life of a preschool teacher or even those in the elementary stage is a challenging one. You need to consider several issues and concerns that each kid may experience in school. It is the primary reason why some teachers end up seeking professional help or attending therapy sessions. (more…)

Anxiety Over High Functioning Autism

It’s important to understand that high functioning autism is not an actual diagnosis and not even a medical term. But despite that, people casually use the name when they talk about individuals on a spectrum that can write, speak, and handle necessary life task. Preferably, they can live on their own.

People who often fall on this type of spectrum are living lives just like everybody else. Aside from that, they even have a higher functioning cognitive compared to others who are having the same condition. But how do people talk about and understand the situation? Why is there an anxiety issue on both having and treating the disorder?

“People who suffer from ambient anxiety have not developed an internal psychological and emotional barrier. Things they see and hear penetrate them to their core.” –Fran Walfish, PsyD

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Autism Facts

The difference of high functioning autism from other autism spectrum is the milder forms. Before this, only those severe cases tend to be diagnosed and treated. That’s the mere reason why Asperger’s become the most popular diagnosis as a whole. So when people came to realize that there’s a whole lot more about the autism spectrum, they begin to categorize all the cases as “autism spectrum disorders.” But other individuals still use the outdated terms such as Asperger’s because they somehow haven’t kept up with the numerous changes of the treatment.

Symptoms Of High Functioning Autism

Just like an individual on an autism spectrum, high functioning people still struggle with making eye contact and having consistent communication with others. Since socially interacting with different people can sometimes become very difficult, those who are high functioning have a feeling of anxiety. They have issues about social gatherings because, for them, the act of social activeness takes so much of their energies. People believe that OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression are the significant co-morbidities of high functioning autism. Meaning, each of these mental illnesses happens simultaneously at a particular time. Perhaps that’s due to the abnormalities in the serotonin production.

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People with high functioning autism tend to be more aware of their situation. They can differentiate their state from others. With that, they get too anxious with interacting with people and become immensely depressed on their incapability to connect with someone. As a result, these individuals develop other forms of mental health issues. In some unfortunate events, they struggle to understand sarcasm and jokes from friends or families as well. In this sense, there’s a chance that they can appear more mature for their age, but the truth is they are just uncomfortable sticking around with a bunch of people. Honestly, they don’t understand what’s typically going on in social situations as a whole.

“Autism is a complex developmental disability that causes difficulties in many areas, with varying degrees of severity, most notably with social interaction and communication.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. But in other cases, most high function people with autism disorder still manage to complete a routine or task. These people’s restricted habits and rituals may appear odd to those around them, but it won’t matter. Because working the things they are comfortable doing can help these individuals to manage their anxious feelings better and comply with the sensory overload that they may be experiencing. So, therefore, their tantrums or meltdowns are normal.

There’s still no definite conclusion of how people get autism spectrum disorders. However, research already shows that individuals with ASD suffer from abnormalities in the particular region of the brain such as the frontal cortex and amygdala. These two sectors are responsible for cognitive processing and decision making, as well as emotions, memory, and survival. That’s the reason why people who are experiencing ASD struggle regulating their emotions, and therefore can’t control social situations.

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Interventions And Treatments

According to John Cutrone, LMHC, MCAP, CAS, “Being diagnosed with Autism does not have not to impact you negatively. People with Autism can live fulfilling and meaningful lives. It is about learning the tools and skills that can help lead to success.” Luckily, there’s so much that we can do to manage autism spectrum disorders. But first, we have to understand that the condition is not something that people do not grow out of, nor it is something that requires an immediate solution. With significant social involvement, we can create a difference for these people with ASD. Interventions such as setting up occupational therapy, providing speech therapy, and encouraging applied behavior analysis are a good start. People can also promote social skill classes, psychotherapy for anxiety and depression, and engage in floortime activities. They can also help those people with ADS in relationship development intervention, or utilize picture exchange for much better communication.

There’s pretty much nothing to worry about ASD. As long as people work together in helping each other, handling social issues will become smooth and straightforward.

Asperger’s And Autism: On Love, Relationships, And Gender Identity

People diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder may act, think, and feel a bit differently. However, they’re very much capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with friends, family, and a significant other. Although they have a disability, they can positively identify with romance and gender roles.

Romantic Relationships Of “Aspies” And “NTs”

Adults with Asperger’s (Aspie) may have difficulties in navigating the social world. They do not often exhibit signs of empathy and affection. They’re also not very conscious of other people’s emotions. Despite that, many relationships thrive with an Aspie partner.

A person with Asperger’s syndrome is no different from the rest of the normal crowd (neurotypical or NTs). Qualities such as beauty, personality, and intellect are also some of the criteria for attraction in Aspies. “Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is more common that we realize and there are increasing numbers of high-functioning adults who are self-identifying or being diagnosed.” Eva A. Mendes LMHC explains.

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In some cases, people tend to find a partner who has the qualities they lack. Aspies are known for their awkward social skills. Therefore, Aspies may find a partner who is highly perceptive and can help them interact with people.

However, as a neurotypical partner of an Aspie, it will be a challenge to cope with his or her personality. Although many Aspie–NT couples who are still going strong, there are inevitably a few bumps in the road. Here are some traits you can expect from an Aspie partner:

  1. They Are Not Voluntarily Affectionate

We need to feel loved and secured as human beings. For people with Asperger’s, displaying such affections is not in their personality. Unlike NTs, the Aspie do not share the innate understanding for the need of warmth. For them, usual gestures of love are incomprehensible.

An Aspie in a relationship thinks of saying I love you, holding hands, and hugging as things in a to-do list to soothe their partner’s needs for affection. Sometimes they even need an explicit reminder to do these things.

They do not intend to hurt their partner by withholding these actions. It’s just that they do not feel the need for such displays of affection because they do not comprehend it as normal people do.

  1. They Are Too Independent

People with Asperger’s are not clingy. It would seem that they respect your space and independence for not always demanding to spend time with you. However, the reason they act this way is that they are very self-absorbed and do not pay attention to your interests.

Again, this is not intentional. They’re known to have incredible focus in doing tasks; however, this also implies that they have a narrow and concentrated focus on their self-interests.  This results to unintentionally putting themselves first before their partner.

  1. They Cannot Take Hints

An Aspie has difficulty catching people’s subtle display of emotions. Often they do not recognize body language and sarcasm. This phenomenon is called mind blindness.  Therefore, you should explicitly communicate your feelings and emotions with them.

Probably the best-known person in pop culture with Asperger’s is Sheldon Cooper, a character in a famous sitcom the Big Bang Theory. If you have seen the show, you can observe how unusual Sheldon interacts with his girlfriend in their relationship.

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Sheldon appears to be very self-centered and would even require a written agreement or rules for the relationship. These are surprisingly in detail such as “what to do during a date” and “when to hold hands.” The television show has perhaps exaggerated it a bit, but according to some real-life Aspies, a written set of rules helps them in the relationship. Without it, they feel lost.

Although a person with Asperger’s Syndrome does not portray the ideal qualities of a romantic partner, just like any of us, they can still love. Only they show it a bit differently.

Gender Identity And Expression

Love and romance are one of the many things that we share with those with autism. Moreover, given their unique personalities, these people usually are resolute on their gender orientation. But unlike their NT counterparts, they typically do not identify themselves with non-binary gender identities. In most cases, they would only be heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. Catherine Davies, MEd, MSc,CPsychol, LMHC says, “Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) progress similarly to their typically-developing peers in terms of sexual health.”

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Regarding gender expression, Aspies are not very much inclined to identify with the constructs for males and females. Instead, they’re more focused on sensory experiences. Therefore, the way they dress and the way they project themselves would only be for comfort and practicality rather than style and fashion.

Some people may question the preferred gender identity of these people because of their disability; however, like in love and romance, they’re capable of determining their sexuality. Also, like the NTs, people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism are also susceptible to gender identity crisis and gender dysmorphia.

Final Thoughts

People diagnosed with Asperger’s and autism may be different from the abled crowd in many ways, but they’re still capable of loving and managing their sexuality.

Even though people in the autism spectrum think, act, and feel a little differently, it does not mean that they’re less capable than NT people. When you have friends like this in your circle, or you’re in a relationship with one, the key is communication to know better how they feel. “For the partner on the spectrum, confusion about doing or saying the right thing, coupled with an inability to grasp the unwritten rules of social engagement, can cause great anxiety, frustration, and often depression. The world is processed cognitively, with logical thought patterns.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC said.

It may be difficult to understand them at times, but to keep a healthy relationship with them, it is best to try to put ourselves in their shoes even if they cannot always do the same.