Autistic Spectrum Conditions
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a diagnostic label that includes an umbrella of difficulties in two main areas: communication and interactions with other people and stereotyped, intense interests and patterns of behaviour (DSM-V). Some people prefer to refer to ASD as a condition rather than a disorder to emphasise the strengths rather than difficulties. It is also referred to as a spectrum of difference and/or difficulty because every individual will have their own specific areas of strength as well as difficulties.
Some of the common challenges that children, young people and adults with a diagnosis of ASD can face are:
- Difficulties coping with change, trying new things or going to new places and/or meeting new people.
- Difficulties with changes in plans or unpredictable events.
- Difficulties making or keeping friends.
- Sensory sensitivities (for example, loud noises, certain flavours, textures and colours in food, physical contact, being in places with lots of people and crowds).
- They can feel misunderstood by others or may struggle to understand other people’s behaviours and intentions.
- People with a diagnosis of ASD can be particularly vulnerable to low mood and anxiety because of all of the factors above.
Individuals with a diagnosis of Autism can do well and overcome the challenges they face with the right support and in the right environment. Therapy can help to think about how to adapt the environment to meet the child or adult’s needs and/or assist the individual (child or adult) to develop skills and strategies to cope with challenges.
People on the spectrum often have one or several special interests. This can be a positive thing, as they will dedicate lots of time and energy to their interest and can become very good at something (for example, developing an in-depth knowledge of a specific topic, have proficient skills at playing a musical instrument or IT skills). However, their special interest may distance them from others if others are not interested in the same topic/activity or if the person with ASC prioritises their interest over any other activities and relationships. Special interests can often be used to develop new skills and expand routines and/or skills.
People with ASC often like the structured nature of CBT, and small adaptations can make a difference to more successful therapy.
I am trained in the administration of the ADOS-II (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and 3Di (parent interview), commonly used in the assessment and diagnosis of ASD. I have been involved in conducting ASD assessments as part of MDT (multidisciplinary) teams in the NHS and the Spanish National Health System for more than 10 years, although I do not conduct ASD assessments privately at present.