Spectrum of experiences
Excerpts from the lives of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
R., 50 years old
R. is a university philosophy professor who was experiencing increasing difficulties in social relationships at his workplace. He has always been a productive person in his academic work, despite his daily struggle for many years with anxiety and depression. The increased administrative responsibilities in his department and the increasing number of meetings seem to have increased his difficulties with social and organisational tasks. His ex-wife suggested he be assessed for Asperger's Syndrome (AS) which he agreed to. The diagnosis was confirmed to be AS, but also Social Anxiety and Major Depression. He was offered individual therapy to address his difficulties. At the moment his daughter is also being assessed for AS (...).
L., 38 years old
L. is a 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Autism. She lives alone in a room that is part of a home for the integration of people with intellectual difficulties. She prefers her time alone and seems to be less relaxed when she is with her peers for a longer period of time. She has exhibited numerous ritualised and obsessive behaviours since childhood and has always insisted on having things in specific places. She works part-time in a clothing shop in the warehouse area. When she gets home, she goes through the fridge, shelves and other areas of her house to make sure nothing has been moved. He enjoys creating meal menus, reading and drawing about wildlife and has volumes of medical books that he constantly reads and re-reads (...).
T., 40 years old
T. is a 40-year-old man who has recently moved into a social integration flat within an institution for people with intellectual difficulties. A place where he himself has been integrated since he was 4 years old. He lives in this flat with three other people under 24-hour supervision. His meals are prepared and he receives assistance in his daily activities. He has a history of numerous episodes of self-harm and has benefited from a behavioural intervention programme to help him manage them. T does not speak, but communicates through some gestures and images. Although he is aware of his flatmates' presence, most of the time he shows no interest in them. He was diagnosed, when he was 6 years old, with a severe intellectual disability and Autism (...).
E., 19 years old
E. is a young woman of 19 years old, a university student who has faced several difficulties in her academic tasks. She studies at a university far away from her hometown and has been having a hard time adapting to daily routines. She enjoys reading novels compulsively. After some time she sought psychological evaluation at the university's services. He was referred to the possibility of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As a child she was diagnosed with a Specific Learning Difficulty and benefited from psychological intervention for some years and was integrated in the Special Educational Needs. Despite the difficulties in socialising, she still has some close friends from childhood. She was able to face the difficulties she felt in social relationships, mainly during Secondary Education. She says she is aware that the entry and continuity in the university was only possible with professional help. After some time of intervention in the university he was diagnosed with AS (...).
Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
"I've always felt different and I can't understand why!"; or "I've always struggled to understand other people's intentions!". These and other phrases may find an explanation in the Autism Spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an early onset condition that accompanies the person throughout their life cycle. It is neurobiological in nature and is characterised by impairment in communication and social interaction, associated with restricted interests and repetitive behaviours (DSM 5, 2013).
Many adults with ASD or with some characteristics sought help from doctors or psychologists who failed to properly diagnose or treat them and thus experienced years and even decades of suffering.
It is common to find in ASD other associated psychiatric disorders (e.g. Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, etc.). These disorders cause a worsening in people's lives. In a large number of cases they make diagnosis difficult.
Autism in Womem
The lived experiences of autistic women are still misunderstood by the general public but also by many health professionals. It remains more common for men to receive a diagnosis of autism. But it is increasingly believed that autistic women may be better at masking their difficulties, leading to autism going undetected.
Interaction & Interests
Socialising increases my anxiety. "I feel anxious before I even step out of my front door. If I know I'm going to have to socialise on Friday, I'm nervous from the day I make that plan. I go to bed and barely sleep. I get indecisive about what clothes to choose, fixing my hair becomes an impossible task, what am I going to talk about or be asked, and I want to cancel the whole day. "It's not easy, but I try hard because I feel it's important. I find it hard to be a woman with the energy required for a social event, but being autistic requires even more energy, planning and patience. "
Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, it was estimated that 1 in 5,000 children had it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep increase? Steve Silberman points to "a perfect autism storm" - a couple of psychologists with a vision of acceptance, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back even further to an Austrian doctor called Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it has been buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since.
Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works - sharing her ability to "think in pictures", which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains can miss. She argues that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers and all kinds of smart nerdy kids.
Clinical psychologist, specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults in the Autism Spectrum Disorders Centre (PIN Em todas as fases da vida).
Collaborates in the Núcleo de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Online (Online Behaviour Intervention Centre) on behaviours of addiction to video games over the internet.
PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology. Specialty in Clinical and Health Psychology and Advanced Specialty in Neuropsychology (Portuguese Psychologists Order). He has a degree in Clinical Psychology and a Master's in Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies. He has taught various curricular units of fundamental psychology at different universities over the years. Certified psychologist in the intervention model PEERS Adolescents Certified Providers - International
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