Though no one knows exactly why, autism is becoming more and more common. There are several different theories and hypotheses, but no one knows the definite cause of autism. What we do know is that the individuals with autism are living, breathing, dynamic people with their own thoughts, desires, and fears.
For too long, many people in our culture dismissed and shunned individuals with autism due to their own fear and misunderstanding of the condition. As an experienced psychotherapist, I have made it my mission in life to help people overcome the social stigmas held by our society so that they may live healthier, happier, more balanced lives. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, I thought it was only fitting to use this week’s blog to shed some light on some of the lesser-known aspects of people with autism.
4 Things You Should Know About Individuals With Autism:
1. They Are Easily Overstimulated
We are constantly bombarded by an endless barrage of sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds. As we grow up, most of us learn to filter these stimulants so that we can only focus on the ones that matter. However, a common characteristic of individuals with autism is that they are unable to filter these stimulants. This means that while they are trying to listen to someone speak, they are at the same time equally aware of the car passing by on the road outside, the dog barking in the backyard, and the teapot whistling in the kitchen. When they become overstimulated in such a fashion, it can lead to temperamental or behavioral outbreaks.
2. Simple, Quiet, Under-Stimulating Environments Are Best
Because they frequently have trouble learning to filter out unnecessary stimulants, many people with autism are incredibly appreciative of dark, quiet spaces that don’t overwhelm their senses. Sometimes called “sensory deprivation rooms,” these rooms are where they can go when they are feeling overwhelmed so that they may rest, relax, and regroup. Families with autistic individuals often benefit immensely from setting up sensory deprivation rooms within their homes.
3. They’re Not Unintelligent
Contrary to popular belief, many adults and children with autism are actually highly intelligent. Many autistic individuals score very highly on intelligence tests and are able to consistently demonstrate heightened mental ability. Though the relationship between autism and intelligence is still unclear, it’s important to realize that while they may suffer from certain mental challenges (such as the inability to filter out different stimulants), it does not mean that they are less intelligent overall.
4. Autism Is Not “One Size Fits All”
Autism is considered a “spectrum disorder” because it can manifest in so many different ways in different individuals. Individuals with autism range can range from high-functioning to low-functioning and can exhibit one or several of the common symptoms associated with autism, such as:
- Difficulties responding to social cues
- Repetitive behaviors
- Continual challenges with social interaction
With the exception of parents who intentionally adopt special-needs children or adults who choose to work in fields relating to individuals with special needs, no one plans to spend a significant amount of time with an autistic individual. It’s a situation that often arises completely unexpectedly. Even the most balanced, accepting individuals may have their fare share of emotional challenges to work through if an autistic child is born into the family. If you are welcoming a child with autism in to the family, I would be happy to talk with you. Together, we can process your true emotions and develop strategies for moving forward. Visit my website to learn more about my online mental health counseling services!