This year sees the return of National Autism Week, and the 10th Anniversary of the Autism Act in England. Pioneered by the National Autistic Society (NAS), the goal of National Autism Week is to raise public awareness and draw attention to the 700,000 people living with autism within the UK, and to help make the world a friendlier place for all those affected by it.
WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism is the name commonly given to a range of conditions known as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). ASD (formerly separated into the separate classifications of autism, Asperger’s and PDD-NOS) is a developmental disability that affects the way the brain processes information. The amygdala – located within the middle of the brain, and popularly associated with the “flight or fight response” – shows hyperactivity in individuals with autism. The amygdala has been shown in research to perform a primary role in memory processing, decision making, and emotional response (including fear, violence and aggression).
ASD affects how a person communicates with and perceives other people, and how they relate to and experience the world around them. It can cause difficulties with language skills, physical behaviour, and social interaction, particularly when it comes to understanding and relating to other people. Autistic people may have restricted interests or engage in repetitive behaviour. Family life, school, work and social life can all be harder for someone with autism. They may wonder why they are “different” and why people don’t understand them. Autism is a lifelong condition; it is not an illness or a disease; it cannot be “cured.” People with autism feel their condition is a fundamental aspect of their identity, and an integral part of who they are.
WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?
It is still largely unknown what causes autism. Experts believe multiple causes contribute, and that genetic and neurological factors likely play a role in development of the condition. Researchers examining several specific nerve cells within the brain believe autism occurs when a small number of genes interact in a certain way, possibly triggered by external events or factors. Genetic links mean a predisposition to autism may run in families and be inherited; brothers and sisters of a child with autism are 5-6% more likely to develop the condition themselves. In fact, autism may not be a single condition at all, but a group of disorders that have their roots in a variety of different causes resulting in similar problems. There’s a certain level of gender split when it comes to diagnosis of autism, with 4 times as many males currently diagnosed autistic than females.
Current scientific investigations into how autism affects brain function has found that people with the condition may have larger brains than average, which grow unusually fast in early childhood. Connections along the neural pathways of the brain may also differ. Further research is underway to gain a deeper understanding of the implications of these new findings.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Current estimates suggest that 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism. Better research and understanding has led to an increase of diagnosed cases of autism over the past 20 years. Autism exists along a spectrum; all autistic people share certain difficulties but being autistic will affect them all in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions such as ADHD, epilepsy, or sensory impairment. As a result, autistic people often require different levels of support and care.
Able Training offer courses in ASD for both the adult and child setting, offering knowledge about the condition itself and its association with mental health, the challenges associated with managing autistic behaviour, and teaches how to develop positive and effective communication strategies when interacting with autistic individuals – autism is not a condition to treat, but a person to understand.
All people on the autistic spectrum are capable of learning and development. With the right kind of support in place, all can be helped to live a long and fulfilling life of their own choosing.
For more information on our Autism Awareness courses please visit us here https://www.able-training.co.uk/training-course/autism-including-aspergers-awareness/
You can find further information on autism and ASD at the National Autistic Society’s website here https://www.autism.org.uk