Autism is a disability with symptoms that are often detected already during infancy. It is common for children with autism to find it difficult to respond to appeals or encouragement from their surroundings. With early support and adapted learning, people with autism can often live an independent life.
What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental neurological impairment that affects the brain’s way of handling information. The size of the disability is very different from person to person. It is common for people with autism to have an intellectual disability at the same time. Autism also occurs with mental or physical illness.
The word autism is also used for other diagnoses within the autism spectrum, including ASD / Asperger’s syndrome. It is a milder form of autism than an autistic syndrome. This article is about autism without specifically addressing ASD / Asperger syndrome.
Symptoms of Autism
Autism in children and adults has difficulties in two areas:
- Limitations in social interaction and communication
- Repetitive behaviors and limitations in interests and activities.
If you are a guardian or close relative of a child with autism, you often discover during the first year of life that the child does not respond to contact attempts that toddlers usually make. It also often occurs that children with autism have no interest in being with peers and playing with each other.
Children with autism often speak later
In autism, it is common to learn to talk late. Sometimes children with autism can also stop or reverse their development after starting to say a few words. People with autism often mimic all or parts of sentences they have heard before. Such an imitation is also called eco-number.
Most children with autism learn to speak, but having autism and a severe intellectual disability affects the child’s ability to speak. Some children may find it difficult to understand and interpret the deeper meaning of the language, although they may express themselves well. What other people say is often perceived literally. It is common to have difficulty understanding humor and irony.
Those with autism often talk to a different language melody than people without autism. The language melody can be perceived as monotonous.
Interpreting facial expressions and gestures can be difficult
In autism, it is usually difficult to initiate and maintain conversations with others. It is also difficult to understand facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice in meetings with other people. People who have autism often cannot keep eye contact either.
Repetitive behavior is common in autism
In autism, change and new situations are difficult. However, everyday life with routines and structure makes life easier for people with autism. This may be because the person with autism has a hard time imagining what will happen in the event of change and therefore become scared and worried. Having to change routines can cause outbreaks of anger or despair. It is common for anyone with autism to want to do things in a specific way.
People with autism may have behaviors that the environment may experience as monotonous. The way of behaving is also called a stereotype. Behavior means doing the same thing over and over again. There may be movements such as waving your hands, rocking your body back and forth or walking on your toes. Repetitions often have a calming effect on those with autism.
Moving things can be extra exciting
It is common for children with autism to be very interested in things with moving parts. For example, it could be the washing machine’s spinning drum or the toy car’s spinning wheels. Opening and closing doors, again and again, can also be interesting.
Children who have autism can often like to line up toys but have a harder time playing spontaneous ways, such as role-play. Children with autism often want to play alone and may show less interest in peers.
Several symptoms are required to get a diagnosis
The diagnosis of autism means that the child has difficulties within the two symptom groups described at the beginning of the chapter. It is common for the environment to notice symptoms and for the care to be diagnosed before the age of three, but autism can also be detected later. This can happen, for example, in connection with increasing demands from the surroundings. Such demands may arise at the start of school, school changes or other major changes in life or within the family. The symptoms of autism can also be noticed first in adulthood.
The child may react differently to mental impressions
In autism, it is also common to react differently to mental impressions. Children or adults with autism may react unexpectedly to odor, taste, texture, sound, light or touch. The impressions can trigger a strong discomfort, for example, the experience that the clothes scratch. Others may find it exciting to smell intensely on something.
Strong reactions to taste and odor often mean that people with autism have special eating habits or just want to eat certain kinds of food.
Many with autism may have difficulty interpreting what they hear, while it is often easier to perceive what is possible to see.
Each situation is perceived as unique
People with autism have different ways of learning things, thinking and processing information. Many children and adults with autism may have difficulty taking in and sorting out impressions. They can experience each situation as unique and find it difficult to connect what happens here and now with memories and past experiences.
For example, a child can dress for themselves at home with their loved ones but may have difficulty doing the same in other environments and with other people. There may also be other skills that the child is capable of in one environment but not in another.
Usually with autism and other conditions at the same time
People with autism very often also have other difficulties or conditions.
It is common for one or more of the following conditions or disorders to occur with autism:
- intellectual disability
- sleep disorder
- language impairment or learning difficulties
- obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When and where should I seek care?
Contact a child care center, BVC, if you find the child having difficulty speaking, communicating and having a monotonous behavior.
You can contact many receptions by logging in.
Contact a medical center, pediatrician or pup’s local clinic if any of the following is true:
- The child has difficulty communicating or socializing.
- The child has difficulty meeting the requirements of the school.
- The child is restless or has difficulty concentrating.
- The child has difficulty with contact with peers.
Children who appear to have autism are investigated by a doctor and a psychologist. Sometimes a speech therapist, special educator, occupational therapist or physiotherapist can also be part of the team.
When you as a custodian and the child have arrived at the reception, a first assessment is made of whether the child appears to have a disability in the autism spectrum. Then the autism investigation itself begins but the premise is that the first assessment has shown that the child is likely to have some form of autism.
The investigation has several parts
The investigation team finds out how the child behaves in different everyday situations and how the child’s development has been in the past. You who are a custodian or close relative can tell about the child. You can also answer questionnaires. Depending on the child’s age, the investigation team may also have conversations with the child himself.
The team assesses development, language, and behavior
The child is allowed to perform various tests in order for the team to assess development and language ability. It is common for a speech therapist to be present when assessing the child’s language.
The team also observes how the child behaves at reception and in everyday life, for example in preschool or school.
The child’s other health is also important
The physician in the team assesses the child’s other health and examines whether the child has other disabilities or illnesses. The doctor also makes an examination to see if there are any physical problems that may explain the child’s difficulties.
Since the difficulties can look very different, the child is investigated with special regard to his personal situation. This is important for the results of the investigation, which also includes what support the child can receive.
To be notified of autism
Finding out that the child has autism can be both a relief and grief. A relief that you get an explanation for the difficulties. But it can also feel like the grief that the difficulties are due to a disability.
The child needs information
A child who has autism and is wondering about his disability needs to get information in a way that suits his age and developmental level.
It is often good that the child also receives information from someone other than you who is a custodian or close relative. For example, there may be someone on the investigation team talking to the child about autism and what the diagnosis means.
Need for support
It is important to get adapted support as early as possible. Then the symptoms can decrease and in the future, it may be easier for the child to live an independent life. What kind of support a child with autism can receive and to what extent varies greatly. This depends, for example, on whether the child has other difficulties besides autism and how severe the disability is.
The earlier the child gets help, the easier it is for the child to learn new things. It is important to avoid excessive demands that the child cannot meet. Then the child may have new difficulties and therefore feel worse.
Good to know about autism
Good first aid is that you as custodian or close relatives get knowledge of what autism means. The more you learn about the child’s difficulties, the easier it will be to deal with difficult situations in everyday life and to help the child. Many investigative teams offer educational meetings for those who are custodians or close relatives of children with autism.
The calm, orderly and predictable environment is important
Children with autism often have difficulty managing and sorting out impressions. The child needs a calm and predictable environment around him. You who know more about the child’s disability can more easily adapt to the child’s different environments. This way you can reduce the anxiety and stress for the child. There are aids that can make it easier for you to communicate with your child.
Learning new skills
Anyone with autism needs help developing skills and learning new things.
For example, it may be one or more of the following:
- The child may need support to do something with others.
- The child may need help to speak and express their needs.
- The child may also need support to use body language.
- Through play, the child may need to practice socializing with others.
Some children may need more intensive training. It is the therapist who, based on the child’s needs, assesses how such training can look. The therapist also considers which skills are particularly important for the child to practice.
Some children have difficulties with their food
Many children with autism have difficulty eating. It is common that the child just wants to eat a certain type of food. For the child’s environment, meals can, therefore, be stressful and lead to conflicts.
There are often several causes of difficulties. For example, it may be the texture or taste of the food that the child does not like or both. Children who have autism often have a hard time breaking behavior and that also means eating habits. The child may also experience the social community associated with meals as demanding.
In order to create good eating habits, it is important to understand the reason behind the child’s behavior. Therefore, you who are a custodian or related may need support to learn what the child’s difficulties are due to. There, the reception that treats the child can often help.
It can be difficult to sleep
Children with autism may have difficulty sleeping, but clear routines can help the child get a good sleep. For example, a good habit is that the child should have eaten enough in the evening. Then the child does not wake up from being hungry. Other good routines may be that the child takes a bath or that you read or sing for the child before it is time to go to sleep. Many children find it easier to sleep if they are allowed to bring a toy or similar when they are going to bed.
Right to LSS
Children with autism are entitled to support under the Act on Support for Certain Disabled People, LSS. The right includes support from the county council and from the municipality where you live. You can read more about the LSS Act on the Parliament’s website.
Within the municipality, there is a special LSS officer who decides on the support the child can receive. The assessment is based on the autism study that health care has done to make the diagnosis. Support from the municipality can, for example, be a stay in a short-term home or a reliever in the home. The county council can give you advice and support that is often offered by the habilitation in your county.
If you would like to know more about what support the child is entitled to, you can ask the municipality’s LSS officer.
To go to school
A child who has autism needs to be properly prepared for starting school. The child may need time to get used to the new environment, new routines, and new teachers. It can be good if the child is allowed to visit the school before the semester starts and if you as a parent or guardian can meet the teacher before school starts.
Most children with autism can attend regular elementary schools. Those with autism and intellectual disability may need to attend special schools to receive a customized education. When the child is about to change school, it is important to convey knowledge about the child’s disability to persons who are around the child.
It is good if custodians, close relatives, school staff and other people who meet the child regularly can form a network. Informing that the child has one or more disabilities often makes it easier for others to understand the child’s difficulties. Children with autism feel that rules at home and in the child’s other environment are as equal as possible.
Talk to classmates
It may be good for classmates to receive information in advance when a child with autism should start school. You as a custodian can tell you autism for the child’s classmates and their relatives. Or you can ask the school to take care of it. Those who attend the same class need to know some of the disabilities to understand the child’s special needs. The classmates also need to learn to understand why they sometimes behave differently or are treated differently by a teacher.
Read more about school aids.
Teen and puberty
For children with autism, adolescence is the same as for other children, some affected a lot and others less. During puberty, a lot happens in the body which can be stressful. A child with autism may have difficulty relating to their own bodily and emotional signals.
It is often the case that new difficulties arise during adolescence. A child may suddenly stop in its development, begin to feel ill and may have more impulsive and outgoing behavior. For example, it may be that the child avoids certain situations and isolates himself. As a parent, you may need to provide extra support during this time.
It is important to remember that a change in behavior may have its explanation in stress or frustration linked to too high demands or lack of meaningful employment. To promote good development, causes that can lead to stress and irritation need to be as few as possible.
Being close to someone with autism
Being a custodian or close relative of a child with autism can mean a certain change as the child often needs more support and stimulation than other children. Especially the first time after the message can be overwhelming.
Support for parents and contact with others
Since it takes a lot of time and knowledge to support a child with autism, it can be good to get in touch with others in similar situations. For example, you can contact the Autism and Asperger’s Association. With knowledge about the disability and how it can be handled, you can more easily make everyday life work and reduce stress and worry.
There is family support that the municipalities offer to relatives of people with autism. In many municipalities, it is possible to participate in support groups, study circles or to receive individual support calls. You who take care of a large part of the child’s support are entitled to financial assistance.
Important with your own time
Help and support for a child with autism can take up a lot of your time. Even if you need to adapt life to the child’s needs, do not forget your own. Other parts of life, such as the child’s siblings and work, also need space. Children with autism may also like to have a weekend or week with no close relatives from time to time. That time can give the child the opportunity to make friends and experiences outside their immediate surroundings.
Having autism as an adult
Most people are diagnosed with autism as a child. But sometimes you as an adult may need to be examined for autism. The reason may be, for example, that you have great difficulties in organizing your everyday life or that you find it difficult to spend time with your relatives or others in your surroundings.
When and where should I seek care?
If you think you have autism, contact a health care provider. It is common for a psychiatric ward to investigate if you as an adult have autism. The health center writes a referral if you need to be investigated for autism.
You can contact many receptions by logging in.
Investigation as an adult
It can be good to investigate autism if you find that you have major difficulties in your everyday life. Getting a name for the difficulties can make you and others understand better. It is often an advantage to have a relative with you when you get to know the results of the investigation.
An autism diagnosis also means that you are covered by the Act on Support and Service for Some Disabled People, LSS. This means that you may be entitled to different forms of support. Read more about LSS on the Riksdag’s website.
Doctor and psychologist interview
The investigation is basically done in the same way for adults as for children. It is good if a close relative can attend the reception that is in the investigation. It needs to be a person who has known you as a child. Then both you and your loved one can be interviewed by a doctor or psychologist.
The questions are about what symptoms of autism you have had as a child, how the development has been and what difficulties you are having right now. Others, such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and curators, can also be part of the investigation team.
Important with the treatment of physical or mental disorders
The doctor also makes an assessment of your physical and mental health. Many adults with autism have other disabilities besides disabilities such as anxiety and anxiety, depression or difficulty sleeping. It is important that you receive treatment for your problems.
Adults with autism have the right to support
Adults with autism are entitled to habilitation efforts that offer contact with psychologists, curators, speech therapists and physiotherapists. Habilitation is also aimed at educating close relatives and support persons. You can apply for support at your local habilitation center.
If you need support in the home, so-called housing support, contact the municipality. In several municipalities, there are various forms of housing support that you can apply for under the LSS or the Social Services Act. You can read more about LSS and the Social Services Act on the Riksdag’s website.
If there is a greater need for support, there are, for example, group housing and serviced accommodation in your own apartment, but where there are staff in the same house that you can get support from.
Important with employment where your strengths are utilized
As an adult with autism, you may need an orderly and peaceful existence. It can be good with an environment where you can work without being disturbed too often. It is good if you have a job that is designed according to your interests and knowledge and where your strengths are utilized. Many municipalities have operations with employment for people with disabilities.