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Social relationships can be challenging at times. Do you find it hard to cope with change and have intense interests? Or have you noticed these difficulties in someone close to you? These could be signs of autism. This article will discuss autism and how to seek treatment for it.

What is autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neuropsychiatric disability and diagnosis that affects social relationships, communication and behaviour.

It is still not established what causes autism, but a combination of genetic, neurological and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disorder.

There are different levels of severity depending on how much impact it has on one’s life, but each individual with autism is also unique. Here, you can learn more about what the diagnosis may mean for you.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

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Symptoms of autism

There are several different ways that autism can manifest itself, and here is a list of how it can appear:

  • Social difficulties: You may have trouble understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact and developing close relationships.
  • Communication difficulties: Communication problems may include delayed speech development, limited use of gestures, and misunderstandings.
  • Repetitive behaviours: Often repetitive or stereotyped behaviours, interests or activities.
  • Sensory sensitivities: People with autism may be sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, or smell. Some may be oversensitive to certain stimuli, while others may be undersensitive.
  • Rigidity with routines: You may have a strong preference for routines and be resistant to change. Unexpected changes can cause anxiety.

Autism, anxiety and depression

It is not uncommon for people with autism to have other problems, such as social anxiety, depression and stress problems. Sleep problems are also common. These feelings can be exacerbated by the difficulties created by autism, such as social difficulties and sensory sensitivity.

Autism and concentration

People with autism often find it easy to concentrate on things they find interesting and can become very absorbed in them in a way that can be tiring for those around them. They can often see details others do not perceive, which can be a strength. At the same time, too much sensory stimulation can tire them, and they need to work on their recovery. Lifestyle factors are important to consider if you have autism, such as exercising, eating regularly and managing your sleep.

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Relationships and autism

Autism is a disability that can significantly affect relationships. It may involve difficulties with social interaction, taking initiative and understanding others. This can lead to having few friends and a lack of interest in relationships. Understanding how the diagnosis affects an individual can make a big difference in how relationships develop.

Autism in children and adults

In some cases, the symptoms can be apparent in children, but they differ between boys and girls. Boys have traditionally been more observant, whereas it may be different for girls. Their interests may instead be things like makeup or animals. If you have autism, it is not uncommon to be bullied as a child because of social difficulties, and there may be a need for more support at school.

In adults, the symptoms can also appear in social situations, such as having few friends or working problems. If you have grown up with supportive parents, they may have compensated for the symptoms, which may become more apparent when you leave home. Many high-functioning people still manage pretty well if they find a suitable profession. This could be a particular interest or a job with routines they enjoy. Despite this, it may have been a great effort to cope with school and in adulthood, they can often have stress-related problems due to their sensory sensitivity.

High-functioning autism or Level 1

Autism comes in different degrees of severity based on levels 1, 2 and 3. The level of impairment depends on how it affects your life and how much support you need. High-functioning autism used to be called Asperger’s syndrome, but now it is called level 1 autism, which is the mildest form. If you have high-functioning autism, you may have a job and relationships but still experience difficulties in functioning like others. You may be lucky enough to find a profession that suits you and relationships that are accepting. Despite this, you may feel that there may be misunderstandings, and because of the sensory sensitivity, you may get tired quickly.

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Next steps for an autism assessment

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms that seem consistent with autism, contacting a psychologist or doctor is essential to get a diagnosis and help with a possible treatment plan. A psychologist can help you understand yourself and your needs. It can facilitate acceptance, both by yourself and by those around you. Through knowledge and support, we can make complicated things easier.

Do you have questions or concerns? Do not hesitate to contact us or book an appointment with one of our professional psychologists and therapists.

10 FAQs about Autism

What is autism?

Autism is a neuropsychiatric disability. Impairments in social relationships, sensory sensitivity and repetitive behaviour characterize it.

How is autism diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made by psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in neuropsychiatry through a comprehensive assessment. This may include interviews and cognitive tests.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Common symptoms include social difficulties with understanding and communication, repetitive behaviours with unique interests, and sensory sensitivity to sounds and light.

Is there any treatment for autism?

You can receive treatment for autism, which often focuses on social skills training and managing thoughts, feelings and needs in different situations. You are also entitled to support measures such as schooling.

Is autism hereditary?

Research shows that there is a genetic component to autism. If one parent is diagnosed with autism, the risk of other family members having it increases.

Does autism affect schoolwork?

Because autism affects concentration and behaviour, it can be challenging in the school environment. However, exceptional education support can make a big difference.

Can you have ADHD and autism at the same time?

Yes, it is not uncommon to have both. If you think you have both autism and ADHD, you can have a neuropsychiatric assessment.

What can I do if I think I or my child has autism?

If you suspect autism, contact your healthcare provider for an initial assessment. Then, you can proceed with the assessment and treatment.

Does autism differ between girls and boys?

Traditionally, boys have received more attention, and girls have been underdiagnosed.

Can you have other psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, at the same time as autism?

It is possible to have co-morbidity with other conditions, and it is also possible to receive psychological treatment for them.

How is an autism assessment done?

Taking the step to find out if you have a neuropsychiatric diagnosis can be an emotional experience, but it is also essential to get the help you may need. With a simple and easy-to-understand guide, we want to make the hard part easier.

Step 1: Recognize the symptoms

Take note of your symptoms. These can include difficulties socially and with routine and feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks.

Step 2: Consult a licensed healthcare provider

The first and most crucial step is to seek professional help. Only a medical specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can diagnose autism.

Step 3: The autism assessment

After an initial assessment interview, where it is determined that autism may be present, an assessment can be carried out. This may include interviews, cognitive testing and discussions with family members.

Step 4: Diagnosis

If you are diagnosed with autism, you will receive a written assessment, and the next step is to discuss interventions. These can vary from person to person but usually include therapy and other support services.

Step 5: Psychotherapy and support

Talk therapy can help you develop skills to manage the symptoms of autism. These include social skills training, cognitive behavioural therapy, and stress management.

Step 6: Follow-up and adaptation

Regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider are essential to see how the treatment works and if any adjustments need to be made.

Step 7: Support from loved ones

Having a support network is essential. Talk to family and friends and explain your situation so you can get the support you need. If those close to you want to learn more, there may also be family meetings and training courses.

Starting treatment can often seem daunting, so the first step in the right direction can be a conversation with a psychologist or therapist. This is why we offer introductory sessions with our therapists, where you can be seen over video for 20 or 45 minutes. You can also book a call to experience it firsthand, all to make the hard stuff easier.

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Written by samantha

Sr. Samantha Pieterse is a registered psychiatric nurse who is deeply committed to mental health and well-being. Samantha brings a unique and valuable perspective to her role as an editor for Lavendla South Africa. She has worked in Government and Private mental healthcare institutions in Gauteng and her expertise ensures that the articles on our website are accurate and accessible. Samantha is dedicated to enhancing mental health awareness and education in South Africa.