0203 326 9160

0203 761 7026

0203 761 7027

0203 761 7029

0203 326 9160 0203 761 7026 0203 761 7027 0203 761 7029
Dr Dina Gazizova

Author: Dr Dina GazizovaConsultant Adult Psychiatrist

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to those around them and whilst there are common areas of difficulty, the challenges are different for every individual.

triad of impairment

Triad of impairment

There are 'core features' (also known as the ‘triad of impairment’) that are present in most autistic people to varying degrees include:

  • Persistent difficulties with social communication
  • Persistent difficulties with social interaction
  • Rigid and repetitive behaviours, resistance to change or narrowed interests

These core autism symptoms are persistent throughout an individual’s life but will differ in severity according to various factors, including age, the presence of a learning disability or other comorbid conditions, and any therapy or treatment.

Social interaction

One of the signs of autism is social interaction. This is when someone finds it difficult to build and maintain friendships, work in teams and know how to manage social situations.

Social interaction difficulties may include:

  1. Social awkwardness – not knowing what to say
  2. Limited ways of responding socially
  3. Finding it hard to hold two-way conversations
  4. Making social blunders or ‘faux pas’
  5. Coming across an unconcerned for others
  6. Finding it hard to make or maintain friendships

Difficulties with social interaction tend to continue into adulthood, whereas many autistic people learn compensatory coping strategies for dealing with problems with social communication and social imagination.

Social Communication

Difficulty understanding and translating body language, metaphors, and sarcasm are can all be signs of autism.

Common difficulties include:

  1. It can be very hard for autistic adults to engage in the ‘natural flow’ of social conversation and many may choose to stay away from social situations to avoid having to engage with others, which can leave the individual feeling lonely, anxious or depressed.
  2. Problems with social communication can manifest in an unusual use of gaze, facial expression and gesture. This differs from the persistent avoidance of gaze that is seen in shyness or depression.
  3. Difficulties with the non-verbal aspects of speech not only leaves the autistic person struggling to understand what is being said, but may lead to serious misunderstanding of the conversation – which may result in problems in relationships or work.
  4. Thinking from another’s point of view or social imagination is another area in which autistic people can struggle.

Many autistic people find these things incredibly difficult and can lead to social isolation, anxiety and depression. Therapeutic support in the form of coaching, psychology or psychotherapy can help autistic people develop skill sets that enable them to work more confidently in teams or build relationships.

Everyone was really helpful and answered my questions. I felt comfortable with the doctor and knew what the process was going to be. The report I have received is very thorough and the triage team have been there to help me along the way.

Daniel, Kent

Rigid or repetitive behaviours

Repetitive Behaviour

A characteristic that is common across the autism spectrum is something known as ‘restricted, repetitive’ behaviour. This can show in several ways:

  • An almost obsessive interest in a topic (many autistic people have huge knowledge about certain areas)
  • Repetitive body movements, such as rocking or hand flapping, particularly when stressed
  • A strong preference for a set routine or way of doing things and huge discomfort if this does not happen

Restricted interests or activities are interests or hobbies that are unusual in their intensity, content or the amount of time they absorb, particularly when they lack a social aspect.

At their most extreme, the world of an autistic person might narrow down to something (for instance railway timetables or a TV programme) to the exclusion of all other interests.

Autistic people can develop huge expertise in a specific, narrow, specialist field, mastering a wide range of content and information related only to that field, and are able to channel a great deal of attention to a specific area. These interests, whilst sometimes seeming a little eccentric to others around them, are key to the autistic person’s wellbeing and happiness.

Routines and Change

As the world can seem like a very unpredictable (even scary) place to an autistic person, a common characteristic of autism is a resistance to change. This inflexibility can present as a person who becomes very set in their ways, with fixed routines and an aversion to anything new and changes to the ‘rules’ can result in angry outbursts or emotional distress.

Sensory sensitisation

Another interesting aspect of autism is an altered motor and sensory sensitivity to touch, light, sound and other external stimuli. Having over or under active senses is common to the autism spectrum.

Sensory sensitisations can include:

  • Certain sounds
  • Flickering lights
  • Loud noises
  • Clothing textures or labels
  • Texture of food
  • Placement of food on a plate
  • Colours of foods or clothes
  • ‘Anomalies’ like cracks in walls
  • Changes to people’s appearance like hair cuts or wearing fancy dress

The result is that the autistic person can seem to be very distracted and may seem to be day-dreaming as they are preoccupied with experiences that others cannot appreciate. These sensitivities may also lead to various coping behaviours including avoidance of certain places or people, rocking or even self-injury as a way of calming the overload of sensations experienced.

You don't need a GP referral to see an expert

Private psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy for adults and children, face-to-face and online nationwide.

Call us today: 0203 326 9160 0203 761 7026 0203 761 7027 0203 326 9160 0203 761 7026 0203 761 7027

No Internet Connection