Only 15% of all Autistic Adults live independently

Individuals with Autism often face challenges in adulthood, despite their early diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms of Autism begin building at an early age, but adults with Autism frequently lack support systems to guide them through the complexities of social interaction. Limited communication skills, sensory overload, and spatial awareness can make activities such as employment difficult for autistic adults. Despite this adversity, many autistic adults excel in careers that directly address these weaknesses or provide opportunities for creativity.

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More Common Than You Think

Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities; 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with Autism. It was previously believed that there were few treatments available to improve the condition once children reached adolescence. Still, recent research suggests that specific therapies used during childhood could improve life outcomes for adults.

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However, these therapies are often expensive and out of reach for many families.
Many autistic adults, unless they had access to the early treatments on which recently published research is based, do not have access to family support systems or appropriate medical care. As a result of diminished familial support, only 15% of all autistic adults live independently or semi-independently. For this reason, Autism must be diagnosed at an early age so that families can prepare for the needs of their children once they become adults. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that just because an individual “looks fine” doesn’t mean he isn’t on the spectrum; social demands change drastically in adulthood compared to adolescence. The most common signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are social withdrawal, lack of eye contact, and limited communication skills.

If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism

Yet these characteristics don’t define Autism; they’re merely symptoms. It’s important to remember that “the outward behaviors associated with autism can be very different depending on the type of ASD an individual has,” so every person diagnosed with Autism will have his own specific set of needs based upon his diagnosis. For example, some children might become obsessed with a particular topic or interest while others may not demonstrate special interests at all. The sensory overload common in autistic adults depends on the type of ASD the individual suffers from; for example, someone who exhibits higher-functioning Autism may not experience sensory overload at all, while people living with low-functioning Autism might feel overwhelmed in crowded, noisy spaces.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has categorized Autism into five types based upon their respective symptoms: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett Syndrome, and Child Disintegrative Disorder. Of these five types of Autism Spectrum Disorders, the most common is ASD, characterized by impaired communication skills and social interaction. Symptoms vary among all individuals diagnosed with ASD; for example, some may become obsessed with a specific interest while others might not demonstrate any special interests at all.

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For this reason, it is crucial to consider each person on an individual basis instead of merely diagnosing him “low functioning” or “high functioning” based upon his symptoms.
Low-functioning Autism is a term frequently used by laypeople to describe those with ASD. They have relatively impaired communication and social interaction skills and a tendency towards restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Those with low-functioning Autism are less likely to achieve complete independence from parents or caregivers than those with high-functioning Autism. Only 15% of autistic adults live independently or semi-independently. The remaining 85% must rely on family members for employment assistance and other daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, answering phones, etc.

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High-functioning Autism

In stark contrast to people with low-functioning Autism, the subset of adults is categorized as “high functioning.” Although laypeople widely use this term, it is inaccurate. It implies that all autistic individuals are alike, which is far from true. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), there are five types of ASD: Autistic Disorder (AD), Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s Syndrome, and Child Disintegrative Syndrome (CD). All five types emphasize different symptoms but share the commonality of impaired communication skills and social interaction.

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Although these characteristics don’t separate Autism into low or high functioning, they help differentiate one type of ASD from another. For example, someone with AD may experience sensory overload, whereas people with low-AD Autism may not. Likewise, those with AS are more likely to experience social withdrawal (common in low-functioning Autism) than high-AS autism individuals who may be outgoing and friendly. Finally, CD is typically diagnosed at a very young age making it difficult to determine whether or not they will suffer from sensory overload or lack thereof.

Since the symptoms associated with ASD impact every individual differently, there’s no accurate way of determining someone’s level of ability simply by looking at their outward behavior. For this reason, it is best to consider each person on an individual basis rather than generalizing them as either “low functioning” or “high functioning.” Although these terms do have some merit, they aren’t universally accepted for the reasons mentioned above.

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Pay Attention

But while the terminology used to describe people living with ASD is in question, it is time that we began paying attention to their needs and desires. Although this article focuses primarily on Autism in adulthood, understanding the characteristic features of each type will help to improve treatment for children at various stages of development. This will enable them to achieve their most tremendous possible potential without being limited by inaccurate diagnostic predictions.

Handwriting and Autism – When Primary School Teachers discipline the wrong way

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Handwriting and Autism

My hands shake, they always have.

I was never fortunate enough to go to Kindergarten and had to get by learning how to hold a pen, pencil or crayon the way I assumed it should be done. I remember watching my parents and siblings and studying their grip around a pen. I mimicked it but felt that it was uncomfortable. I was obviously never exposed to activities to develop my fine motor skills properly, so I adjusted my grip to a level of comfort, a self-taught way to draw shapes and to try and copy the symbols I saw, which I later learned were ‘letters’ and ‘numbers’.

The tremor in my hands always seemed to trigger the same question from observers: ‘Are you nervous?’.

‘No. I am not, my hands just shake.’ was always my response.

This did not always put their minds at ease and without fail people always assumed that I would struggle to do daily activities. They would more often than not try to assist me with everything: carrying glasses, cups or mugs. Treating me like I had some kind of a disease. It frustrated me, because in my mind I was more than capable of doing every basic task they could.

When I was 9 my teacher saw my hands shake and asked if I was afraid of her? She did this in front of the whole class and obviously they started laughing at me. I was not afraid of her, my hands just shake.

When I was 10 my teacher at the time noticed that I held my pen incorrectly and tried to rectify the situation by threatening me with getting spanked if I did not toe the line. I told her that it was uncomfortable to hold my pen in the traditional way and that I had my own way of gripping my pen. This explanation did not sit well with her and I got a hiding for just trying to explain that ‘I got this’.

This left a scar on my psyche, and I started to trust teachers less and less.

I also have a different way of fastening buttons on my shirt, I do not use my thumb and index finger, I use my thumb and middle finger. This was also frowned upon by our PE teacher when he saw it as me struggling with what he called ‘a basic life skill‘. Again, I did not struggle, I was just doing things my way.

When I was 11, 12 and 13, I had to rewrite some of my tests because the teachers were not impressed with my handwriting. Apparently it was ugly. I was okay to form capital letters, but the lowercase letters seemed to take longer when I had to form them and inadvertently ended up like the scribbles you see on a Doctor’s note… I had to adapt by writing slower and concentrating on writing in the style of the other kids in my class. I eventually got the hang of it, copying others I mean…

When I was 14 and in High School, I adopted a strategy that would serve me well into my adult years. I decided to use only uppercase letters. I would just increase the size of the first letter in a sentence and would use smaller versions of uppercase letters for the rest of the letters in the word. I got less criticism and it seemed to pass the acceptable criteria for legible handwriting.

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Well into my 20’s after reading up on all the symptoms of people with hands that I shake, I settled on ‘Essential Tremor‘ as the impediment I had. I would use this as a self-diagnosed condition whenever people noticed my hands shaking.

I still write like a medical doctor and sometimes I wonder whether people at work can read what I have written. The funny thing is, I can read what I wrote. I think that is all that matters, right?

Fast forward to the present, with my newfound knowledge of Autism and that I am on the spectrum, I finally understand why my handwriting is unique, and I like it!