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Autism and Neurodiversity

Autism and Neurodiversity

 

‘By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.’


― Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

 

Autism / Asperger Syndrome and ADHD are naturally occurring variations in human cognition, often accompanied by distinctive capabilities in terms of artistic creativity, problem solving, and ‘thinking outside the box’. However, the same variations that bestow these skills can also cause problems for people in their daily lives.

Experiences that may feel relatively comfortable to ‘neurotypical’ people – social chit-chat, loud applause, overhead lights, or having to be still and quiet for long periods of time in a crowded lecture theatre - may be very difficult to bear for people with the sensory processing issues and differing desires for social contact that characterise autistic spectrum conditions.  

Relationships may feel exhausting, confusing and anxiety-provoking, as differing communication styles lead to frequent misunderstandings. People on the spectrum may experience bullying, or may themselves be perceived as aggressive, when they are simply trying to be direct. Other people’s social needs may feel draining, and people on the spectrum may need plenty of time alone to re-charge after social events.

Most people don’t see their autism itself as a problem. Indeed, the loss of their autistic traits would mean the loss of experiences, perspectives and interests that bring them great satisfaction and joy, and constitute an important part of their identity. But the difficulties that often accompany autism can cause significant distress, and can be worked with successfully in therapy. These might be:

  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • OCD
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD
  • Relationship difficulties

It is thought that 1% of the UK population meets the diagnostic criteria for autism[1], and while it was once believed to be a predominantly male phenomenon, recent research suggests that 1/3 of people on the autistic spectrum are female[2]. Seeking a diagnosis may bring some people a sense of relief from a longstanding feeling of being ‘different’; others who identify autistic traits in themselves may prefer not to have a ‘label’. There is no right or wrong; it’s a matter of personal preference.

Resources

If you have an autism diagnosis, suspect you may have autistic spectrum traits, or have a loved one on the autistic spectrum, you can find support through the National Autistic Society.

Pinpoint provides information on local support groups for parents and carers of people with Autism and ADHD.

The CLASS clinic offers diagnostic services for adults in Cambridgeshire who may have autistic spectrum conditions without intellectual disability or language delay.

You can find a wealth of autism research via the Autism Research Centre.

The Cambridge University Disability Resource Centre can offer guidance on inclusive teaching practices.

If you would like to enquire about counselling to do with autism, neurodiversity or any other issues, you can do so via our website.

 

 


[1] Baron-Cohen, S., Scott, F., Allison, C., Williams, J., Bolton, P., Matthews, F., & Brayne, C. (2009). Prevalence of autism-spectrum conditions: UK school-based population study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 194(6), 500-509. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.059345

 

[2] Loomes, R., Hull, L. and Mandy, W. (2017). What Is the Male-to-Female Ratio in Autism Spectrum Disorder? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(6), pp.466-474.