Bendigo Psychology

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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) include Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).  ASD is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ to cover the large variation of skills and abilities of people with these life-long, neurologically-based disorders.

Children and adults with ASD have difficulties in three main areas:

1.        Communication – people with ASD can have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication.  Some people may have no speech at all whilst others may have intact verbal skills but struggle to ‘read’ people and their expressions, especially in social situations.

2.       Social awareness and getting along – the difficulties that people with ASD may have with understanding and following social rules  can, at times, cause them significant difficulties in friendships and relationships.

3.       Rigid interests and activities – those with ASD may not enjoy playing in the usual way and they may have particular sensitivities to textures, objects, noises or tastes.  Sometimes, people with ASD can have very limited interests and may obsess about one particular topic or object.  Rigid interests, obsessions and sensitivities can lead to behaviour problems which can be severe at times.

Given that people with ASD have a range of issues in each of these three areas, the way ASD looks can vary from person to person.  Also, it is very common for a person with ASD to have other medical or mental health issues such as tics, anxieties, attention problems and mood disorders.

Those with ASD can struggle with unexpected or sudden change.  This can mean that they frequently have trouble at times such as starting school, changing school, puberty, a new job or a change in relationships.  Their difficulties understanding social settings can make them vulnerable to being bullied or to appearing rude to others.

ASD presentations can be varied and complex.  Thus, the clinicians at Bendigo Psychology prefer to conduct assessments as part of a multi-disciplinary team that involves a medical expert (paediatrician or psychiatrist) and a speech pathologist.  Clinicians can contribute valuable information to a multi-disciplinary assessment by assessing cognitive functioning (IQ), developmental and behavioural history and measures of social skills and behaviour and sharing this information with other professionals.

ASD is a life-long concern.  This does not mean that those on the spectrum need full time psychological treatment.  Instead, clinicians contribute most when a person is approaching a significant change in their life or has hit a particular difficulty. Early intervention is particularly important as are teaching skills for getting along, reading emotions and coping with concerning behaviours.  Evidence-based interventions include applied behaviour analysis, social skills programs, problem solving, social stories and parent training.  Sometimes, those caring for people with ASD need psychological support to assist them to manage concerning behaviours and to help the person with ASD to learn new skills.

To assist others with ASD you can:

  • Increase predictability and routine in their environment
  • Use clear and simple language and picture cues where appropriate
  • Avoid communicating with metaphors and sarcasm
  • Demonstrate and practice new skills with role plays
  • Get to know and understand any sensitivities the person may have with respect to noise, taste, sound and the like
  • Consider ways of giving the person some time out from noisy or demanding environments, especailly to assist them when they are upset

For more information see www.autismhelp.info