Understanding autism
Understanding autism

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Understanding autism

6.2 Accompanying medical and psychological difficulties

In some individuals, autism goes together with other physical or psychological health problems. Perhaps the most common of these is epilepsy. It is estimated that up to one third of people on the autism spectrum may be prone to epilepsy, which is more common in ‘low-functioning’ autism (Viscidi et al., 2013). Some researchers believe that there are common sources for the atypical brain activity associated with autism and epilepsy. Fortunately there is a range of medications and treatment which can help to prevent seizures occurring, but sadly this is not always the case.

Other common problems that co-occur in some cases of autism are dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Here Alex talks about his obsession with handwashing, and how he overcame it.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week2_6_1_alex.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

ALEX:
I had OCD as well. I have it. And again, I think that's quite common, more common with people with autism. But I would actually wash my hands because I was scared of germs. I'd go and wash my hands like six times each time I went to toilet, so I'd end up washing my hands 80 to 100 times a day.
And I did CBT for that. And one of the things they did with me was exposure therapy. And so they made me, for example, touch the floor, and then I'd have to delay hand washing and increase each time to teach myself there's nothing wrong with it and to get over the fear.
End transcript
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Depression and anxiety are also common in autistic people, and there may be many reasons for this. At school, young people with autism often experience bullying, because others perceive them as different or eccentric, and this may lead to low self-esteem and social isolation. Similarly at college, university or in the workplace, autistic people may find it hard to fit in and make friends, suffering all the more because they don’t understand why.

Here Alex talks about his experiences of bullying at school.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week2_6_2_alex.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

ILONA:
In what ways do you think having autism affected you when you were growing up?
ALEX:
The main one, I think-- and this is the same for I would say anybody that's a bit different, is that the bullies like to pick on people who they think are different because it gives them satisfaction. So I think I was bit more prone to bullying, and I was bullied at school. But I got through it.
ILONA:
How do you think you managed to get through that? What strategies did you use?
ALEX:
Took me a while to learn them, but quite often, the best thing to do I'd say is ignore them. Because they want a reaction, and if you don't give it to them, I've learned-- and this is what people have told me, they'll find someone else. So just ignore them.
ILONA:
And apart from the bullying, can you tell us about any other particular problems that your autism caused you when you were a child?
ALEX:
This isn't so much of an issue now, because I've met some really great people as I got older, but I would say when I was at school, I didn't have especially that many friends. I only had about three or four. But now, I know a lot of people, so I'm getting better. And obviously going to work and studying, I've met all sorts of people with similar interests to me, so that helps.
End transcript
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The NAS (National Autistic Society 2018a; 2018b) has further information about all the problems discussed in this section.

AUT_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus