Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Understanding autism

1 Autistic traits and neurotypicality

As you saw in Week 1, autism involves characteristic traits – ways of behaving and interacting with the world – which differ from those of the neurotypical population.

Given the varying pattern and impact of these differences in autism, specialists need clear and explicit criteria to evaluate whether, say, one person’s limited use of spoken language and another person’s excessively verbose speech both ‘tick the box’ for an autism-related symptom. Diagnostic criteria are developed, piloted and refined over a period of years by specialist working groups. You will explore them in more detail next week. Meanwhile, watch this clip in which Arabella describes how she came to realise that her daughter, Iris Grace, might be different from other children.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week2_1_arabella.mp4
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Iris is my daughter, and she's six years old. And she was diagnosed with autism at two, but even before that, I realised that things with Iris were different from normal babies. She was very into herself, and she didn't want to look at us. When she was a very young baby, if I was cradling her in my arms, she wouldn't even look into my face or at my eyes. So being a photographer, I realised that something was going on there. And people try and comfort you, and they say, oh, everything's fine. She'll develop. It's just, you know, her-- her character.
But as time went on, I saw other differences as well. And it was things like she was very sensitive to noise. In fact, she's very sensitive, full stop. So her senses may be different to how we feel things.
She's very tactile. She'll touch everything that she comes into contact with. And she's very interested in it. It's almost as if the texture gives her more information than, say, it would for you and I. And noises is other thing. It can be very painful to hear certain noises, like if a glass clinks with another glass, or we put away some cutlery in the drawer. So over time, I just noticed these little things, and it sort of began to build up a profile on her. And I researched it and everything, and then found out that it could be autism, so we got her formally diagnosed.
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