Autistic Children can’t be sociable and don’t have friends
We know that many children with ASD can present as very sociable, maybe overly so and in some cases can be over-familiar with strangers. Some parents will say “he will talk to anybody” .It may be that it is the quality of their interactions that is the problem and some children may engage in inappropriate behaviour to gain other children’s attention or to initiate an interaction. For the higher Functioning Young people they may have the skills to develop friendships with peers who have similar interests and often these work well. However successful the peer relationships are it is true that a significant proportion of the Young people we see do have a desire to have friends and interact but may not have all the skills to do this successfully. This can then very negatively impact on their self-esteem and self-confidence when interactions don’t go as planned.
Autistic People don’t have empathy
Whilst we know being aware of other’s feelings and emotions and reacting appropriately to them can be impaired in Autism Spectrum Disorder many people affected by ASD can be overly empathetic to others which can in turn make them very vulnerable. Parents will regularly tell me their Autistic Child will cry when they see other People crying or become overly distressed if a Sibling injures themselves. I have had Parents tell me their child would give away all their money and toys to others without a second thought or realizing they don’t need to do this. It can often be a source of annoyance to adults with ASD that they are considered not to have empathy when they feel very aware of other’s feelings to the point it has impacted on their own Mental Health with high anxiety levels or low mood due to the worries they have for other people around them.
Autistic People can’t show affection
Whilst it is true that some people on the Autism Spectrum can find it difficult to offer or accept affection due to sensory issues or other difficulties it is often true that many are very affectionate to family members or people they are comfortable with and are happy to be affectionate on their own terms. If there are other concerns around ASD features in a child their ability to be affectionate should not be a reason for their difficulties not to be looked at further.
Autistic People can’t make eye contact
Eye contact can be an area of difficulty for many people on the Spectrum however this is not always the case. Some may make eye contact appropriately, some may stare intensely and others may use eye contact on their own terms rather than being completely avoidant of eye contact. Quite often parents or referrers see this as a reason why their child doesn’t have Autism if their eye contact is good but it is important to look at the overall range of the child’s difficulties whilst taking into account their strengths.
The impact of Autism
In the UK around 1 in 100 people are currently diagnosed with ASD. That is around 700,00 people with 30,000 people from that in Northern Ireland. It equates to around 3 million people’s lives being touched by ASD -that is staggering.
The economic cost is more than Stroke, Cancer and Heart Disease put together yet less than 1% of research funding is given to the area of Autism.
In my next discussion I will look at What we know and What we don’t know about the causative factors in ASD.