Is Autism A Mental Health Condition?
There’s a lot of confusion out there around what autism is, and whether it’s a mental health condition, or something entirely different.
Autism – one example of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) condition, is a condition that impacts on a person’s capability to fully interact with the world around them. In other words, people with ASD can’t relate to the social or natural world in the same way that we do. It’s a wide-ranging affliction, with a huge range of severities, and as a result no two people with ASD have the same experience with it.
It’s also important to note that there are a number of different branches of ASD – autism itself is one, but Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PPD-NOS) also come under the ASD umbrella.
We still don’t know what exactly causes ASD (however, we do know that vaccinations – often argued to cause autism by some elements of the community – most certainly do not). It is a neuro-developmental disability and it’s generally accepted that the likely causes are either genetic, or neurological… or perhaps both. But because there’s no consensus or proof on the causes, there’s also no cure for ASD at this point in time.
ASD is also far more common than people think. One in 100 people of school age would be diagnosed with ASD, and boys are far more likely to be affected than girls. Often, however, less severe examples of ASD will go undiagnosed, because while a person with ASD might experience some difficulties in some areas of development, other skills will develop typically, if not well beyond the typical, and so the ASD inhibitions are chalked up as part of the normal curve of children naturally being better at some things. In many cases a diagnosis of ASD only occurs when the individual is well into adulthood, even though it is something they would have lived through from childhood.
Some of the common indicators of ASD include:
- A delayed or inability to learn a language or speak.
- An inability to express creativity through play.
- Obsessive behavior, with particular favourite topics, objects, or activities.
- The development of rituals and routines, and a high degree of stress and anxiety when the routine changes.
- Difficulty processing sounds, tastes, smells and colours. One of the most common (and dangerous) manifestations of this is a difficulty with determining hot versus cold.
So in short, autism is a mental health condition, and doctors can diagnose it through its symptoms, but there is no understanding on what exactly causes it, and there’s no cure. It is, however, possible to get help for someone diagnosed with ASD, so that they can enjoy the full potential of their life in a comfortable and safe manner. Furthermore, it’s important that the rest of the family – including parents and siblings – have the right support and environment, as having a family member with ASD can become a stressful experience for the whole family.
That’s where Lizard Centre comes in. Contact us today to start the discussion if you’re looking for support for a child diagnosed with ASD.