Autism, Asperger’s and Neurodiversity

Posted January 14, 2021 by Cristina Vrech

Cristina Vrech - Individual and couples therapist

Cristina Vrech

Founder and Director - Individual & Couple Therapist, Corporate Services

Co-founder and director of Leone Centre, Cristina Vrech, has 20+ years of experience in working and supporting people, 14+ years of extensive experience as a therapist and offers valuable knowledge to individuals and couples. Prior to being a therapist, she worked in the financial sector.

Cristina takes a down-to-earth and direct approach across the landscapes of relationships, communication, stress, infidelity, confidence, loneliness, addiction, separation and divorce, IVF, and anxiety.

Offering Online Counselling and in person counselling.

Cristina Vrech can help with...

There is often confusion around what Asperger’s actually means. Once known as ‘Asperger’s syndrome’, there is also a medical terminology called ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)’, which illustrates that there is not an exact science and it is not always easy or straightforward to define and identify presentation and symptoms.

What Is Autism?

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human minds. As humans, we are a neurologically diverse species.

The social dynamics that manifest in regard to neurodiversity can be seen as similar to the ones that manifest in regard to all other forms of diversity.

You might have heard of or received a medical diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (also ASD); this usually includes a broad spectrum of “symptoms” that can manifest differently from one individual to another.

We know that many people who are identified as being on the spectrum do very well academically, are generally and helpfully able to see things from different angles and often present with an impressive memory, a rich vocabulary and a strong motivation and capacity for self-learning.

Some of the more challenging aspects might be around communicating and social interactions, more specifically, the complexities of emotional connections with others.

You may find that someone on the spectrum can more easily become overwhelmed, overstimulated and at times distressed by changes to the environment around them, including loud noises, bright lights and changes to routine.

So here are a few things that might be helpful if you feel that you, your partner, or a loved one might be on the autistic spectrum.

Also, see how counselling at Leone Centre can help.

Neurodiversity

There are some common indicators that can be used to identify the symptoms of ASD.

These include:

  • Challenges communicating in social situations

If you are on the spectrum, you might have more of a tendency to take things literally and struggle to understand abstract concepts.

Sometimes when communicating, you might have an inclination to talk without pausing to allow for interaction from others; this is especially if you are explaining something you feel passionately about.

People on the spectrum sometimes need extra time to process information or provide an answer to a question or are unable to or have difficulty speaking in a way that can be easily understood.

You might, at times, appear to be abrupt when you do not mean to be short, or you might struggle to pick up sarcasm or a certain tone of voice.

  • Challenges with social interaction

With ASD, you might notice that you often find it difficult to interpret other people; or struggle to pick up the subtleties of others’ feelings and intentions, which is why, at times, you might be misunderstood and perceived to be insensitive if people are unaware of the challenges that you can encounter.

You might struggle to express your own emotions, which is why you might not seek comfort from other people. Instead, you might benefit from seeking time alone and often need to find your own way to make friends.

  • Repetitive behaviour

In an attempt to make sense of a seemingly complex and unpredictable world, it’s not uncommon for people with ASD to seek routines and predictability, restrict the ‘element of surprise’, and gain some sense of control. For example, if you are on the spectrum, you might feel more comfortable eating the same food at exactly the same time, wearing similar and comfortable clothes, or walking the same route every day.

A change of routine may, at times, feel distressing. Just small changes, like a detour on the drive to work, can trigger some anxiety.

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch

People with ASD may experience might, for example, find restaurants or shops that play background music unbearably loud or distracting. In such situations, in not unusual to feel anxious and perhaps have a meltdown or shutdown.

For this reason, many people avoid public places and social interactions. Schools, workplaces, shops and events can be particularly overwhelming. 

  • Highly focused interests and hobbies

Individuals on the spectrum might have a particular interest or hobby, which to others may appear to be very focused. They can become particularly devoted to one particular interest and invest so much time and energy that they become experts. Clever, interested and able to see from a different angle, many autistic people do very well academically and, from a creative angle, have so much to offer.

  • Extreme anxiety, meltdowns and shutdowns

Taking into consideration all of the above, anxiety can often be triggered in social situations.

When things become too unpredictable and overwhelming, you might be perceived as reactive by those around you due to high levels of anxiety. This might present as a meltdown or shutdown.

A meltdown might include temporarily losing control and becoming reactive, raising your voice or crying.

A shutdown is more passive and inward, simply ‘switching off’ and becoming very difficult to communicate with. When you detach, it is very difficult to take anything in.

Both responses are intense and exhausting experiences.

How counselling can help

Counselling can be extremely helpful in developing effective ways to process experiences, develop reflective processes, and work through any communication barriers with your loved ones. 

A range of counselling services can prove very helpful, whether it’s individual counselling, couples therapy, relationship counselling, or therapy for stress management. A counsellor can provide you with the tools you need to manage the challenges and alleviate some of the difficulties they entail.

Where you can find counselling for ASD

At Leone Centre, we provide a range of services, including specialist high-quality couples counselling, marriage counselling, and online relationship counselling specifically for those on the spectrum.

We know that in order to bring the best version of yourself into any relationship, you need to nurture the relationship that you have with yourself.

Our counsellors can guide you through everything from relationship issues, stress management, addiction therapy, help to manage your anxiety, bereavement or to work with you to develop the new tools needed to boost your self-esteem and confidence to become the best version of ‘you’.