Here are some Eleos Clinic reflections from Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2022.
We really enjoyed the week of events which amplified our understanding of the lived experience of people with neurodivergence and what we can do to help support others.
As a child and family team, we assess and help to support children, young people and families where there are neurodivergent or neurodevelopmental symptoms. We see a range of children from 3-20 years old who present with their unique profiles of strengths and challenges.
Autism spectrum condition (ASC)/Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can impact individuals in different ways. Possible autistic traits include understanding things literally, difficult 'reading' other people, repetitive and restrictive behaviours and highly focused interests or hobbies.
It is estimated that at least 1 in 100 children in the UK are autistic, and that over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic. Autistic people may have challenges with integrating their needs in a predominantly neurotypical world. For instance, some autistic people may find certain sensory stimuli (e.g., sight, sound, smell, touch) calming/overwhelming.
In a recent talk during Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Dr Chloe Farahar (https://aucademy.co.uk/chloe-farahar-phd/) spoke of the importance of helping autistic people build self-advocacy and help them understand their profile (sensory, communication needs) of who they are as an autistic person.
Therefore, when autistic people understand their needs, they are able to convey them to others to set boundaries and expectations. For instance, if they are not fond of touch, then they could communicate with others that they would prefer to simply use speech rather than shake another person's hand. If they know that specific situations can lead to overwhelming anxiety, they can put strategies in place to help them cope.
What can autistic people do to understand their profile and develop a positive autistic identity?
Here are tips which may be helpful:
Understanding Sensory Profiles - Processing sensory information can be a challenge for autistic people. Occupational therapy can help autistic people understand their sensory profile or differences, as there may be senses which are overstimulated or understimulated, or both, at different times.
By understanding these sensory differences, a plan called a sensory diet can be created to help autistic children and adults effectively manage and regulate themselves. A sensory diet is to help people manage being either overstimulated or understimulated. It helps by providing activities for children and adults when they need it such as using weighted blankets, using different textures or using ear plugs/noise reducing headphones.
These strategies can help people improve their emotional regulation, increase body awareness organise themselves, and improve attention.
Plotting their profile (strengths and challenges) on a radar chart - See the following link for an example https://twitter.com/profamandakirby/status/1439830934409392130?lang=en-GB
Joining autism community groups - See the following link for some examples https://soyoureautistic.com/2019/04/02/where-to-go-for-all-things-autistic-a-brief-starting-guide/
References & Further Resources:
What is autism? National Autistic Society.
British Medication Association
University of Exeter Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2022
Neurodiversity Celebration Week.
National Autistic Society
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