Receiving an adult diagnosis of autism can be transformative. Autism help adults and those close to you understand what your needs are and how best to support you.
Adults living with autism can still encounter social difficulties, be fixated on routines or have sensitivities to light and sound; however, learning new strategies to combat these challenges is beneficial.
Autism-sufferers often struggle with social skills. This includes recognising feelings (their own and those of others), understanding the social environment and acting accordingly – whether comforting someone who’s sad or offering assistance when necessary.
Some individuals with autism may be better at understanding social cues than others, yet still struggle with reading other people’s reactions, particularly non-verbal cues such as facial expressions or gestures. This can lead to miscommunication that can quickly turn into tension when autistic people tend to be more direct than neurotypical folks.
There are various approaches that can assist children and adults alike in learning social skills, including using social narratives; short stories which describe specific social situations while providing guidance for appropriate behavior. They can also be taught through role playing or modeling. Furthermore, behavioral therapy provides another form of teaching social skills – often led by psychologists or behavior analysts.
Some individuals with autism find it challenging to communicate verbally. They may also struggle with understanding other people’s attempts at communication such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice; and may interpret words literally, leading to misinterpretations of what was intended by their meaning.
Visual supports, like pictures or letters, may assist some individuals in communicating more easily. Reminding them about tasks like going shopping can further their ability to advocate for themselves.
Research indicates that individuals with autism could benefit from practicing empathic responses in conversations. This might involve repeating what their conversational partner has said back, asking about their interests and showing genuine enthusiasm about the topic at hand.
Avoid using irony, sarcasm or figurative language in your interactions with autistic individuals as these may be taken literally and may cause them to misinterpret your humour. Involving rhetorical questions, idioms or exaggerations might also prove misleading as these may also prove confusing for these individuals. Using rhetorical questions, idioms or exaggeration could lead to further confusion on their part; using rhetorical questions rhetorical questions rhetorical questions rhetorical questions rhetorical questions might cause them anxiety in turn and prevent them from engaging with others thus hindering their learning new skills (Kelly et al 2018).
As humans have eight senses, not five, children with sensory issues may struggle with processing information from their senses: sight, smells, touch, hearing and proprioception (an internal body awareness that tells us whether we’re hungry, full or need to use the toilet). Children experiencing these difficulties might react by having a meltdown when exposed to certain stimuli or become oversensitive and react more strongly than expected to different forms of input.
They might get upset by bright or flickering lights, certain textures of clothing or finding it uncomfortable to hold hands – this is known as sensory processing disorder but not officially recognized as a distinct mental condition. Instead, it often forms part of autism spectrum disorders or attention and learning disabilities and may also occur independently of them. Everyone experiences sensory issues differently so it is important that individuals with autism understand that everyone experiences them differently too.
Some individuals with autism can also experience anxiety outside of their autism diagnosis. This can impede how they relate to others when sensory sensitivities or social situations create challenges for them.
Anxiety symptoms often co-occur with common autistic behaviors, like stimming and resistance to changes in routine. This makes identifying anxiety symptoms in loved ones difficult. Anxiety-inducing behaviors include head banging, scratching skin or hand biting (Cuncic 2021).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has proven itself an effective method of treating anxiety disorders, while self-help programs based on CBT have shown positive results in improving anxiety symptoms among young people living with autism and coexisting conditions such as ADHD. Occupational and speech therapists with expertise in both autism and anxiety can teach individuals how to better cope with triggers, develop more positive thoughts and emotions and reduce sensory distress such as loud noises or bright lights by teaching coping mechanisms or providing strategies that reduce distressing sensory stimuli like loud noises or bright lights.