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Autism Q&A

What is Autism

July 11th, 2020


For Autism Community, Allys

What is Autism?

What is Autism?

Having autism (formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD) means that a person’s brain processes information, including information about their environment, in another way. The Autistic person’s brain has physically developed differently than a neurotypical brain. Autism can give a person both strengths and challenges.

There are two primary characteristics that require various levels of support needs:

  1. Social communication and social interaction, and
  2. Restrictive and repetitive behaviours activities or interests

Autism is considered an example of neurodiversity and can be represented by a gold or rainbow infinity symbol. 

Language is a powerful mechanism in shaping our understanding of the world around us and it influences how people perceive themselves and others. The words we use to talk in conversation with and about Autistic people can have a powerful impact in either advancing or undermining disableist attitudes. We recognize that there is no consensus on language in the autism community. People are going to use different words and everyone on the autism spectrum will require varying levels of support. Learning from Autistic experiences is vital for community acceptance, this is one of the reasons why we started AutismBC Connects a platform for our Autistic community Members to highlight, celebrate, and amplify their voices. At AutismBC we aim to support learning journeys and hope to assist people to make informed decisions that will resonate with themselves and their loved ones.  We ask you to be kind, understanding and help to build supportive inclusive communities. 

Autism Assessments Basics 

If you are thinking about an autism assessment for your child, someone you support, or for yourself – knowing some of the communication, social, or sensory-based characteristics that can be common with ASD can help get a timely and accurate assessment. As a parent and/or caregiver, you know your child best. Professionals working with your family are valuable partners but never discount the importance of your own observations and intuitions. Pursuing an autism assessment can be one way of looking to a diagnosis to help understand strategies to support the needs of a person. Not everyone who pursues an assessment will receive a diagnosis. The autism assessment and diagnostic criteria are based on the DSM 5 framework.

Adults in BC (and Canada) still face significant barriers to accessing, affording, and/or receiving an autism assessment. 

Here is a wonderful video produced by the Mental Health Literacy Guide for Autism by the AM-HeLP Group. It is a helpful visual aid to explain autism and break down stigma: 

What to Look for? 

Autism is a spectrum and each individual is unique; however, there are relatively consistent characteristics that can help determine if an autism diagnosis may be appropriate. Below are common characteristics that the medical community will be looking for during an assessment process. Becoming familiar with Growth and Development Milestones can help you decide if pursuing an autism diagnosis is right for your child. 

Social Communication & Social Interaction: 

  • Speech may be absent or delayed
  • Difficulty using or understanding gestures, such as pointing 
  • Difficulty with abstract concepts and pronouns
    • Example: reversal of pronouns, saying “you” instead of “I” 
  • Language can be uniquely structured or repetitive (echolalia) 
  • Struggles with initiating and/or sustaining conversations 
  • Social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures can be missed, perceived differently, or used in non-neurotypical ways
  • Relationships with peers can be difficult to develop or maintain
  • Reciprocal question-based communication can be challenging 
  • Intense focus and understanding of personal special interests 

Sensory & Self-regulating: 

  • Self-stimulating for regulation such as hand flapping, rocking, chewing, unique vocalizations, or other repetitive movements. This can sometimes be self-injurious. 
  • Preferences for set routines, familiar surroundings, or predictability
  • Smell, touch, taste, sound, or sight of certain things can produce a hyper or hyperactive response
  • Visual fascinations with lights, movement, or how things work 

Learn More about:

How to Pursue an Autism Assessment in BC

Introduction to Sensory Friendly

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