Autism Spectrum: Communication and Connection variant

Ever been stuck on a word - like on the tip of your tongue one minute, and can't remember it the next?
Ever had moments where adding a couple of numbers was suddenly a frustrating exercise?

To understand Autism a small number of things are important to remember and take into account: Language,

This is not intended to be a definitive final word on Autism. Rather it is an exploratory journey, in a
new, or other) way for understanding and living with Autism Spectrum "challenges" in communication
(interpersonal, inner-personal, as well as connections with the world, and people around them. My
views here are my own, although I welcome other views gladly. These reflect the development stage
of alternative ways of looking at it, understanding it and "dealing with/treat it (after numerous years
of research, thought, study, interaction, and reflection. I invite you to engage in dialogue on this with
me - so that together we can create a comprehensive information and knowledge page.

A lot has to do with communication: verbal and non-verbal.

Language Arts and Arithmetic/Math
BOTH have structure - both are a "language" (symbolic - the second one is "easier" - it is the same, every where).
The one is extremely Literal; the other is much more complex because so much of it is figurative - also incl  
location (environment), place, time, circumstance, "vibes" and incl face and body language, and the words
themselves: see Communication.

A spectrum is a beautiful thing, when we think of it as the "colour spectrum": a graduated, inter-connected
range of beautiful colours we are aware of: not as in the "grey-scale". There is a big caveat (caution) to bear
in mind on this topic: that just as we have experienced over and over - when we finally "know" a person, we
A person" (as in 1) - we cannot generalize from that to thinking we now know All persons. We are all
unique, and we get to know one person at a time - and discover there is great diversity: commonalities
over-lapped with differences - each a variant" of some vague concept called "norm".

Very literal "think of a tree" can be challenging for some people - they need specificity - and have that
"explained" in language and wording that they can relate or connect too. Actually, we all have moments that
we need to have thing "spelled out", for us.
Dawn Cove Abbey
"Roadside Assistance" for your Journey through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From, "One! The Journey hOMe", the eBook by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 2007-2019
Comments and Inquiries are welcome
NOTES (raw)  Temporary (What We Know - summary)
While it's handy to describe autistic people based on their similarity to typical people, such descriptions can be
misleading. That's because low functioning people may be successful where high functioning people are not,
and vice versa. For example, the "high functioning" person who appears "normal" (or even exceptional) in a
college classroom may find it impossible to function at a party. Meanwhile, the "low functioning" person who
can't use spoken language to chat may be more than capable of leading a conversation online.

"Levels" of Autism in the DSM5 (not my favourite source - but serves the purpose here for now.
To provide some type of differentiation in diagnosis, the DSM 5 (the newest diagnostic manual) now includes
three levels of autism based on necessary levels of support. People with level one autism need the least
support, while people with level three autism need the most.

While this diagnostic approach sounds logical, it has not proved to be particularly useful. That's in part because
the need for support varies for so many reasons. For example, the same individual may need minimal support
in the home, significant support at school, and a great deal of support in a novel, unstructured social situation.

Sudden Onset?
Neither Older Children Nor Adults Can Develop Autism
To begin with, by definition, older children, teens, and adults do not develop autism. In fact, in order to qualify for an
actual autism spectrum diagnosis, you must have symptoms that appear during early childhood (that is, before age
three). Thus, if you know an adult or older child who has suddenly, out of the blue, developed behavioral or social
communication issues, you are not seeing someone who has acquired autism.

People who appear to suddenly behave in an "autistic" man manner may have developed any one of a number of
other mental health issues, some of which do most commonly appear in early adulthood.

Autism-like behaviors may result from a wide range of disorders from social phobia to generalized anxiety to
obsessive compulsive disorder. These are serious disorders that have a significant impact on an individuals' ability to
function effectively, make or keep friends, or hold a job, and they should be treated. But they are not autism.

Onset Time (from Autism speaks)
Is it possible that autism starts even earlier (before birth)? Research tells us “yes.”

“When does autism start?” is one of the most profound questions we face in our field.  At present, autism can’t be
reliably diagnosed until around 2 years of age. However, parents often notice symptoms before then. In fact, analysis
of videotapes from children’s first-birthday parties shows that signs of autism are already present for many children at
that age, even when parents don’t become concerned until months or years later.

In most medical conditions, the underlying processes are triggered before their signs and symptoms become obvious.
Consider arthritis. The joints are breaking down and inflammation is setting in years before the aches and pains
appear.  In dyslexia (reading disability), the symptoms aren’t obvious until a child starts learning how to read. But the
symptoms are rooted in brain differences that are present much earlier in development.

A similar chain of events occurs in autism.  We know that toxic exposures during pregnancy and complications
associated with delivery can disrupt brain processes before birth and shortly afterwards. Mutations in the genes
associated with autism can affect how the brain develops and functions, starting well before birth.

Even though the outward symptoms of autism may not be apparent immediately after birth, the underlying brain
differences are accumulating.  Sometimes the brain can compensate to make up for the disrupted processes.  
Eventually though, if the disruption was sufficiently severe, the compensatory processes are no longer enough, and
symptoms emerge.

This may likewise explain many cases of autistic regression, in which a young child seems to be developing normally,
only to lose abilities, or regress, into autism. Perhaps the initial disruption in brain development continued worsening.
Or perhaps the compensatory processes couldn’t keep up.

Given how complex the brain is, it can be very difficult to correct differences in brain development and function that
start so early in life.

SYMPTOMS: (from Autism Speaks)
Autism’s core symptoms are
social communication challenges and
restricted, repetitive behaviors.
In autism, these symptoms

begin in early childhood (though they may go unrecognized)
persist and
interfere with daily living.
Specialized healthcare providers diagnose autism using a checklist of criteria in the two categories above. They also
assess symptom severity. Autism’s severity scale reflects how much support a person needs for daily function.

Many people with autism have sensory issues. These typically involve over- or under-sensitivities to sounds, lights,
touch, tastes, smells, pain and other stimuli.

Autism is also associated with high rates of certain physical and mental health conditions.

Social communication challenges

Children and adults with autism have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, they may not
understand or appropriately use:

Spoken language (around a third of people with autism are nonverbal)
Eye contact
Facial expressions
Tone of voice
Expressions not meant to be taken literally
Additional social challenges can include difficulty with:
Recognizing emotions and intentions in others
Recognizing one’s own emotions
Expressing emotions
Seeking emotional comfort from others
Feeling overwhelmed in social situations
Taking turns in conversation
Gauging personal space (appropriate distance between people)
Restricted and repetitive behaviors
Restricted and repetitive behaviors vary greatly across the autism spectrum. They can include:

Repetitive body movements (e.g. rocking, flapping, spinning, running back and forth)
Repetitive motions with objects (e.g. spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers)
Staring at lights or spinning objects
Ritualistic behaviors (e.g. lining up objects, repeatedly touching objects in a set order)
Narrow or extreme interests in specific topics
Need for unvarying routine/resistance to change (e.g. same daily schedule, meal menu, clothes, route to school)
CAUSES (from Autism Speaks)

One of the most common questions asked after a diagnosis of autism, is what caused the disorder.

We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic
and nongenetic, or environmental, influences.

These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. However, it’s important to keep in mind
that increased risk is not the same as cause. For example, some gene changes associated with autism can also be
found in people who don’t have the disorder. Similarly, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for
autism will develop the disorder. In fact, most will not.

Autism’s genetic risk factors
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will
develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child (even if the
parent does not have autism). Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the
sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism
by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder

Autism’s environmental risk factors
Research also shows that certain environmental influences may further increase – or reduce – autism risk in people
who are genetically predisposed to the disorder. Importantly, the increase or decrease in risk appears to be small for
any one of these risk factors:

Increased risk
Advanced parent age (either parent)
Pregnancy and birth complications (e.g. extreme prematurity [before 26 weeks], low birth weight, multiple
pregnancies [twin, triplet, etc.])
Pregnancies spaced less than one year apart
Decreased risk
Prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, before and at conception and through pregnancy
No effect on risk
Vaccines. Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing
of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades
to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is
clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a comprehensive list of this

Differences in brain biology
How do these genetic and nongenetic influences give rise to autism? Most appear to affect crucial aspects of early
brain development. Some appear to affect how brain nerve cells, or neurons, communicate with each other. Others
appear to affect how entire regions of the brain communicate with each other. Research continues to explore these
differences with an eye to developing treatments and supports that can improve quality of life.

What are the signs of autism?
The timing and severity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others,
symptoms become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.

Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why
professional evaluation is crucial.

The following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any
of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:

By 6 months
Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions.
Limited or no eye contact.

By 9 months
Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months
Little or no babbling
Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
Little or no response to name.

By 16 months
Very few or no words.

By 24 months
Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age
Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
Avoidance of eye contact
Persistent preference for solitude
Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
Delayed language development
Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
Restricted interests
Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors

Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013, it became part of
one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability distinguish Asperger syndrome from other forms of

It generally involves:

Difficulty with social interactions
Restricted interests
Desire for sameness
Distinctive strengths
Strengths can include:

Remarkable focus and persistence
Aptitude for recognizing patterns
Attention to detail
Challenges can include:

Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
Difficulty with the give and take of conversation
Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
Uncoordinated movements, or clumsiness
Anxiety and depression
The tendencies described above vary widely among people. Many learn to overcome their challenges by building on

Though the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome is no longer used, many previously diagnosed people still identify
strongly and positively with being an “Aspie.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help address anxiety and other personal challenges.

Social skills training classes can help with conversational skills and understanding social cues.

Speech therapy can help with voice control.

Physical and occupational therapy can improve coordination.

Psychoactive medicines can help manage associated anxiety, depression and attention deficit and hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD).

How has our understanding evolved?

1944: Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger described four strikingly similar young patients. They had normal to high
intelligence. But they lacked social skills and had extremely narrow interests. The children also shared a tendency to
be clumsy.

1981: British psychiatrist Lorna Wing published a series of similar case studies. In it, she coined the term “Asperger

1994: Asperger syndrome listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4).

2003: Asperger syndrome and other previously separate types of autism folded into one umbrella diagnosis of
“autism spectrum disorder” in DSM-5.

SENSORY Issues (autism Speaks)
Sensory issues often accompany autism. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association added sensory sensitivities to
the symptoms that help diagnose autism.

Autism’s sensory issues can involve both hyper-sensitivities (over-responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-
responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli.

These can involve:

Body awareness (proprioception)
For example, many people on the spectrum are hyper-sensitive to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g. from
fluorescent lights). Many find certain sounds, smells and tastes overwhelming. Certain types of touch (light or deep)
can feel extremely uncomfortable.
This video, by two students at the Ringling College of Art & Design, simulates the “sensory overload” experienced by
many people affected by autism.

Hypo-sensitivities are likewise common. A low sensitivity to pain is a classic example. Another is under-
responsiveness to the body signals that help control balance and physical coordination. This can result in clumsiness,
which has long been associated with autism.

How can I help someone with autism-related sensitivities?

Awareness and accommodation can help ease related discomfort.

Remember each person with autism is unique, and this includes their personal sensitivities.

Examples of accommodations for hyper-sensitivities
Dimmed lights
Incandescent versus fluorescent lighting
Sunglasses or visor to block overhead fluorescent lighting
Ear plugs or headphones in noisy environments
Closed door or high-walled work areas to block distracting sights and sounds
Avoidance of strongly scented products (perfumes, air fresheners, soaps, etc.)
Food options that avoid personal aversions (e.g. intensely spicy, textured, cold, hot, etc.)
Clothing that accommodates personal sensitivities (e.g. to tight waistbands and/or scratchy fabric, seams and tags)
Request for permission before touching

Examples of accommodations for hypo-sensitivities
Visual supports for those who have difficulty processing spoken information
Sensory-stimulating toys (e.g. safe chewies and fidgets)
Opportunities for rocking, swinging and other sensory stimulating activities
Strong tasting and/or textured foods, cold beverages, etc.
Firm touch (according to preference)
Weighted blankets
Fun opportunities to practice physical skills (catching, dancing, jumping, running, etc.)
Furniture arrangements that reduce chances of bumping into sharp or hard surfaces
What therapies can help with sensory issues?
Occupational therapy uses physical activities and strategies to help each person meet their sensory needs and better
process sensory input in everyday environments
Autism feeding programs can address aversions to tastes and food textures, as well as under- and over-sensitivities
that can hamper chewing and swallowing.
Speech therapy can include both sensitivity-reducing and sensory-stimulating activities that improve speech,
swallowing and related muscle movements.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help gradually increase tolerance to overwhelming sensory experiences.

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From the net

People with ASD often have symptoms or aspects of other conditions, such as:
a learning disability.
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Tourette's syndrome or other tic disorders.
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
generalised anxiety disorder.

There are three different types of Autism Spectrum Disorders:
Autistic Disorder (also called "classic" autism) This is what most people think of when hearing the word "autism." ...
Asperger Syndrome. ...
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also called "atypical autism")

Characteristics. Autism is characterised by marked difficulties in behaviour, social interaction, communication and
sensory sensitivities. Some of these characteristics are common among people on the spectrum; others are typical of
the disability but not necessarily exhibited by all people on the autism spectrum.

Can autism develop late?
Some children show signs from birth. Others seem to develop normally at first, only to suddenly show symptoms
when they are 18 to 36 months old. However, it is now recognized that some individuals may not show symptoms of
a communication disorder until demands of the environment exceed their capabilities.

Can you suddenly become autistic?
In the case of high-functioning autism, for example, it's not unusual for a child (or even an adult) to receive a
diagnosis much later than most children are diagnosed with autism—but that's not because symptoms suddenly

Do autistic toddlers smile & laugh
A child at risk for autism may not smile or laugh in response to your smile or playfulness although he/she may smile
at you on their own and look very happy.

Autism Speaks at