In March Peter Baimbridge spoke to us about Autism. Autism is a Condition not a Disorder, a Disability, or a Disease. It is an observable state in which autistic people are different. They are Apple Macs in a PC world.
An MRI scan shows much more activity than a “normal” brain leading to some of the problems faced including a greater incidence of nightmares.
Peter described his own position. He has an IQ measured at 150 and has a degree and Chartered Status in Marketing and Sales Management and managed to trash a number of careers and businesses. He spent 30 years in and out of Mental Health Services before being diagnosed with Autism at the age of 56. He is now off medication and is self-managing his condition. He is using his experience and expertise to support, advocate for and to train others.
He has given presentations to various University Departments such as Clinical Psychology (University of Manchester) and Nursing (University of Salford).
Peter created the charity Salford Autism which is run by autistic professionals. It provides support for everyone who is, cares for, or is affected by someone with an ASC and has a 24 hour emergency phone line.
Ordinary people seem nuts to autistic people, who do not do innuendo but work on precise information. The UK prevalence rate of autism is 1-1.5% but as it is thought that as many people go undiagnosed it could be as high as 5-6%. There is an impact on the health and benefit bill as most workers in the field do not understand the problems. Most children with autism look normal but with some abnormal attributes. Women are just as likely to be autistic as men but are better at “fitting in”.
Work is a big problem as 75% of autistic people are able and willing to work but only 15% have a job.
When stressed autistic people, particularly children, can go into meltdown. Many people think they are tantrums but they are quite different. Tantrums are controlled, targeted, manipulative and stop when successful, leading to a happy aftermath. A meltdown is spontaneous, involuntary, random and unstoppable, leading to an emotional wipeout. It is similar in nature to an epileptic fit. To help someone in meltdown it is essential that one person only helps and keeps everyone else away. They should not tell the person to calm down but they should speak softly and reassuringly and wait it out. They should be ready to deal with the total emotional wipe-out the follows.
Autism is neither a learning disability nor a mental health problem, although mental health problems can be more common among people with autism and it is estimated that one in three of adults with learning disability also have autism. It is a life-long, pervasive, developmental spectrum condition with many facets, any of which may be present (or not) to a greater or lesser degree.
Autism is an 'abstract diagnosis' arrived at with difficulty by assessment of reported behaviour. In communications and social behaviour visible indicators include: non-verbal to highly articulate communications, problems with unwritten rules of conversation & social interaction, difficulties with non-verbal communication, poor attention, single-channel processing, using and interpreting language literally, processing delay, and receptive language problems. Autistic people have different communication motivations, they find social interactions stressful and draining rather than energising and need lots of 'alone time' to 'recover' after socialising. They struggle with “rules” of social interaction and often “get it wrong”.
Autistic people have inflexible thinking and rigid repetitive interests. They struggle with imposed, unexpected or unexplained change, struggle to see another's point of view, and struggle to plan and organise. They are often focused on detail, missing the context, and struggle with imprecise or incomplete information. They struggle to generalise skills and learning, needing rules and clarity. They are often oblivious to common dangers (including danger from others). They need routine, ritual and structure for reassurance and often have obsessive special interests.
Relevant legislation and guidelines include the Mental Health Act (1983), the Mental Capacity Act (2005), the Autism Act 2009, the Equality Act (2012), the Care Act 2014, Think Autism: updated strategy for adults with Autism in England (2014), Autism in adults: diagnosis and management (2012), Challenging behaviour and learning disabilities: prevention and interventions for people with learning disabilities whose behaviour challenges (2015).
National Autistic Society (www.autism.org.uk)