If you know someone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), chances are you’ve wondered what living with autism feels like. Many with autism describe their experience as an alternate reality, seeing the world through a unique lens. It can be challenging to comprehend what neurodiversity may feel like. Still, it’s essential to recognize that autism affects everyone living with it differently.
While autism uniquely impacts the development and behavior of many individuals, many experience challenges related to communication and social interactions. Additionally, many living with autism experience heightened shame, stigma, and prejudice because of their condition. However, none of these variables should keep anyone with autism from pursuing their dreams and long-term goals.
While living with autism isn’t necessarily an easy or seamless experience, many on the spectrum go on to live robust, fulfilling lives. Many historians suspect some of the most influential minds in our history of being neurodivergent, so individuals on the spectrum are in outstanding company. Today, individuals living with autism can go on to graduate from Ivy League Universities, establish major tech companies, and win significant awards. The possibilities are endless.
At ABA Centers of New Jersey, we’d like to discuss living with autism based on research and our experience serving the neurodivergent community. Here we discuss the condition’s positive and more complicated life features. Lastly, we describe the next best steps following a diagnosis. With the proper support from caregivers, family, and providers, individuals with autism can live satisfying, exciting lives.
For more information about ABA therapy with ABA Centers of New Jersey, click here.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a complex developmental condition affecting social interactions, behavior, and communication in patients diagnosed. Medical providers licensed to diagnose autism spectrum disorder identify the condition typically within children in their first three years. However, some do receive their diagnosis as teenagers and adults.
Individuals diagnosed with autism often experience challenges in social settings because of their behavior and pervasive interests. Fortunately, research shows that children diagnosed and treated early experience better developmental outcomes than those who do not.
Today, the prevalence of autism increases annually due to improvements in our ability to detect and understand autism. While there is no established or known singular cause for autism, research points to environmental and genetic factors. As we learn more about the genetics of autism and potential factors that can play a role in its expression, we improve our understanding of the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
Symptoms and characteristics of autism range from mild, causing a child to play slightly differently from peers, to more severe, causing a child to be nonspeaking. Some individuals with autism live reasonably independently, while others need round-the-clock support for daily functioning. Some of the standard features of autism include:
- Limited or no eye contact
- Limited responding
- Limited facial expression
- Unusual play
- Few to no gesturing
- Inflexible, distinctive, or pervasive interests
- Limited interest in peers
- Little or no pretend play
- No singing or dancing
- Upset by a change in routine
- Repeating words or phrases
- Focusing on unimportant features of a toy or object
- Adherence to rituals
- Repetitive moments
- Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli (sound, smells, taste, feel, etc.)
- Delayed language
- Delayed movement ability and range
- Delayed learning and cognitive ability
- Hyperactive, inattentive behavior and impulsivity
- Abnormal eating and sleeping habits
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Unstable mood or emotional responding
- Excessive stress, worry, or anxiety
- Lack of fear
- Limited responses to pain
What Is Living with Autism Like for Families?
Autism affects both those diagnosed with autism and their families. Autism advocates now say there’s no such thing as an unaffected sibling when a child in the family unit has autism. Some of the challenges those with autism experience include strained relationships or difficulty participating in life. Sometimes, autism can cause mental health issues and isolation in those diagnosed and their families.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing some of the complicated features neurodiversity can present to families and providers, autism experts universally recommend ABA therapy, also called Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA treatment supports many families in addressing the aspects of autism that can hinder daily life, including destructive and compulsive behavior.
Furthermore, autism awareness has improved lives for families with autism in recent years by informing society about the benefits of neurodiversity and inclusivity.
The Challenges of Living with Autism
Many individuals with autism describe difficulty comprehending nonverbal communication and social cues, making social interactions more difficult to navigate. A lack of social skills can also make it more challenging to establish bonds or make friends. Many neurodivergent individuals also have difficulty expressing their feelings or communicating their needs.
In many cases, autism also affects individuals’ sensory processing abilities, making them hypersensitive to touch, light, or sound, among other stimuli. These sensitives can make doing everyday activities like a run to the grocery store or attending a family event difficult or even impossible without professional support in some cases, depending on the level of impairment.
Anxiety can also be a common challenge for people living with autism, causing them to worry excessively about things that can seem uncommon to their neurotypical peers. These anxieties, ranging from fear of certain foods to outbursts when a Lego piece is out of place, can complicate routine activities like playdates or attending school.
Strengths of Living with Autism
When some people read or learn about neurodiversity, they only imagine the burdensome elements of living with autism. But there are many joys of life with autism, including the unique perspective it offers and the diversity it provides the world. Many with autism are brilliant and live remarkable lives that impact our world tremendously.
The strengths of autism can range from improved attention over long periods to capturing tiny details. For many, their autism is a superpower and another reason to celebrate differences. While autism presents challenges, those who can see its positives, practice acceptance, and embrace it, have much better outcomes living with autism.
Stigma and misunderstandings regarding people with autism sometimes describe them as cold or inconsiderate, but this isn’t true. People with autism, just like their neurotypical counterparts, can be extremely loving and loyal. While their expressions of affection can look different, they still have emotions and favorite characters in their life.
Treatment can help them refine their ability to relate with others and form stronger bonds. While autism can make establishing relationships more complex, connecting and relating with those on the spectrum has many advantages. While many describe autism as a disability, it can be an empowering experience for the whole family as they watch their loved one overcome challenges and excel in new ways.
Life after an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis
It’s natural for families to feel overwhelmed or nervous after finding out a loved one has autism. Here are a few steps to make living with autism easier for families with a recent diagnosis.
1. Learn About Autism.
Spend time learning about autism from reliable sources. Also, spend time researching more about the experiences of their families living with autism.
2. Reach out for help.
Living with autism can be a challenging experience for everyone involved, and you mustn’t feel alone. Many organizations offer online and in-person support groups or conferences for families that need help. If you need more personalized assistance, seek professional support from a counselor or therapist who understands neurodiversity.
3. Focus on the strengths of autism.
Many with autism exhibit incredible talents and abilities, adding to the diversity of our world. By focusing on the positive aspects of life on the spectrum, you can improve your outlook and attitude about the condition.
Living with Autism Can Be Incredible
Understanding what it feels like to live with autism isn’t always easy since every child affected experiences the condition differently. Parents often realize that patience and compassion is often the best approach to living with a child who has autism, as their experiences of the world can often feel overwhelming and confusing. Being an ally and advocate is often an essential part of parenting and raising a child on the autism spectrum. In many cases, it can make living with autism even more rewarding.
ABA Centers of New Jersey Supports Families Living with Autism
Fortunately, no matter what your family is experiencing, ABA therapy can help. ABA Centers of New Jersey understand that families with autism have different needs and often require specialized support. Our ABA center utilizes cutting-edge ABA interventions that empower neurodivergent individuals to live more independently to achieve their goals.