Autism

Facts About Autism

I put together this sheet that I bring with me to presentations of True Mercy. I hope readers will find it informative. 

Note: As everyone can understand, life is very busy. With editing my new novel, marketing True Mercy, and improving my website, I have decided to post articles on my blog every other week instead of once a week. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that is marked by two unusual kinds of behaviours: deficits in communication and social skills, and restricted or repetitive behaviours.

Symptoms include the following:

  1. Aversion to displays of affection and a preference for solitary play
  2. Speaking later than norm
  3. Speaking in a robotic tone or an exaggerated singsong, odd tones or speech patterns
  4. Limited eye contact or limited use of gestures to communicate a need to describe something
  5. Monopolizing conversations while showing little capacity for reciprocity or understanding

Restrictive or Repetitive behaviours:

  1. Repeating actions and rituals
  2. Fixating on minute details
  3. Troubled by changes in daily routine
  4. Putting toys in order instead of playing with them
  5. Consuming interest in a specific topic or object

Information is taken from “Quick Facts on Autism” from Child Mind Institute

Statistics

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children
  • Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls
  • More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder
  • About 40% of children with autism do not speak. About 25%-30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others might speak, but not until later in childhood.
  • Autism greatly varies from person to person (no two people with autism are alike)
  • The rate of autism has steadily grown over the last twenty years
  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder, yet most underfunded
  • Children with autism do progress – early intervention is key

Two Common Myths about Autism:

  • Individuals with autism are not affectionate. Not true. Although they may be oversensitive to touch, they can and do show affection.
  • Individuals with autism are not interested in social interaction. Actually, while they often struggle with knowing how to make and keep friends, they do like people around and are capable of interacting socially, but they need to be explicitly taught the hidden social rules.

Information is taken from the National Autism Association, Autism Society, and we-care.com (blog)

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What is Stimming?

Those familiar with autism have most likely heard the term “stimming.”

In my novel True Mercy, Adam, the eighteen year-old with autism, often stims. Here are a few examples:

  1. Adam flapped his hands excitedly when he saw the Pizza Craze sign.”
  2. Both his hands were above his head shaking in the air.”
  3. Adam walked around in circles, hitting his head with his hand while mumbling, ‘What should I do? Should I call Daddy? Do I look for a doctor? What should I do?’”
  4. “‘Daddy, when can we see Marina?’ he asked, pointing his index finger in the air.

When can we see Marina?’ Bruce now repeated his son’s own question to him.

When she finishes talking with the police,’ Adam replied. He stared out the side window for ten seconds before turning to his father again.

Daddy, when can we see Marina?’ he asked, pointing his index finger in the air again.”

But what is exactly is stimming?

According to Wikipedia, “Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autism spectrum disorders.” 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, stimming is one of the telling symptoms of autism. They go on to list examples in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, : “Other common stimming behaviors include hand flapping, rocking, excessive or hard blinking, pacing, head banging, repeating noises or words, snapping fingers, and spinning objects.”

Many therapists have concluded that since individuals with autism are extremely sensitive to stimuli, this behavior serves as a protective response when these individuals encounter unfamiliar and unwanted external stimuli. Others believe it is used as a vehicle to relieve anxiety and other undesirable emotions.

Many individuals who do not have autism also stim. For example, in a stressful situation, some people bite their fingernails or tap their foot. However, they have enough control to stop stimming in circumstances when there isn’t appropriate, such as on a date or in a job interview. For those with autism, however, they don’t have the same control over their stimming, may not be aware of the effect it has on others, or find it too stressful to stop.

There are stimming behaviors that could cause self-inflicted injuries. These include head-banging, hand-biting, or too much scratching. There are also cases of those who stim on a constant basis. For these reasons, experts seek to find methods to reduce or stop these behaviors altogether by either medication or using an alternative form of stimulation, such as feeling the softness of a piece of cloth instead.

In True Mercy, I strove to portray this common behavior in an individual with autism by depicting eighteen year-old Adam stimming in order to give readers an idea of what they would encounter if they met someone with this neurological disotrder.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy. Please read and review on Amazon. She looks forward to reading your comments.

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