Focus on what’s strong, not on what’s wrong
Therapists from The Speech Centre attended the Konfident Kidz Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) workshop, where Ciaran* spoke about his own journey through diagnosis, school & independent living, Stella* shared her experience as an adult diagnosed with ASD and focused on the female presentation of ASD, while Hannah* talked on her experience before and after diagnosis, and also sensory issues.
Ciaran identified that despite his high intellectual ability, he experienced high levels of stress in secondary school. He emphasised the importance of continuity between teachers in school, and taking a “whole person view” rather than solely assessing a student based on classroom studies. An important statistic that Ciaran mentions is that 7/10 people with autism will develop mental health issues. With this in mind, Ciaran currently writes articles to increase awareness around dos and don’ts for people with ASD in airports, hotels etc.
Stella is a member of Cork Women’s Aspergers Group. When her 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with ASD, Stella could see many similarities reflected in her own behaviours. She reflected on her time in school, when she would mimic the behaviours of her classmates, practice facial expressions in the mirror, and copying the actions of those around her. She recalls feelings of exhaustion that were directly related to the effort involved in trying to interact with others, and the difficulty she experienced in understanding figures of speech and other forms of non-literal language. Stella acknowledges that receiving her diagnosis meant that these feelings were no longer a mystery to her.
Hannah was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 19, while attending university. She explains that she didn’t really know she was being manipulated and bullied; she just thought this was how people treated one another. She didn’t realise that school wasn’t supposed to be draining; she thought that’s everyone hated school and came home exhausted. She Hannah described her sensory processing difficulties relating to people, smells, bright lights, and uncomfortable clothing in jarring colours. She spoke about how shopping centres, doctor’s surgeries, and schools can be sensory hell, as all input is given equal sensory importance. For example, she could hear someone saying her name aloud as clearly as she could someone chewing gum at the other end of the room. Finally receiving a diagnosis of ASD was, for Hannah, a relief and helped her to understand herself so much better. She said she likes to identify herself as being autistic and not someone “with autism”.
From group discussion at the end of the workshop, it was apparent that girls with a diagnosis of ASD are something of an enigma. They do not present with the widely accepted “typical” features of ASD and although they appear studious and well-behaved in school, it does not mean they don’t have ASD. These girls may seem quiet/shy but they are people watching, trying to comprehend the world around them, attempting to understand the meaning behind figurative language that eludes them, and discovering coping mechanisms to help them manage the difficulties they encounter in their daily lives.
You can find more information on the above by following the links below: