People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit many behaviors their family, teachers, and other supporters find challenging. At the same time, those individuals often find the world at large a challenge, and the behavior of the people in it perplexing. “I wish I could live on Planet Autistic,” is the way one young man with ASD expressed how alien and misunderstood he often felt on this planet.
What are the behaviors and ways of taking in the outside world that distinguish a person with an ASD from his or her “typical” peers? Although these will vary according to the severity of a person’s autism and their age, there are core issues that affect most people with an autism spectrum disorder. In this section we explore each of these overlapping topics.
Social and Communication Problems
Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests
- Repetitive Motions and Obsessions
- Stimming: Repetitive, Stereotyped, and Sometimes Self-Injurious Behaviors
- Restricted Interests: Obsessions, "Special Topics", and Attention Deficits
- Insistence on Sameness
Other Challenging Issues Common to Autism
- ADHD, Anxiety and other Psychiatric Conditions that may occur along with autism
- Sleep Problems and other Sleep Issues
- Sensory Issues: Seeking and Avoiding
- Mood Instability and Meltdowns
- The Challenge of Physical Fitness for People with Autism
- Executive Function Issues
- Activities of Daily Living
- When a Psychiatric Crisis Hits: Children with Autism in the Emergency Room
As we consider the core issues that impact individuals with an ASD, it becomes clear why autism spectrum disorder used to be considered a "pervasive developmental disorder." People on the spectrum often face pervasive, all encompassing challenges in almost every aspect of functioning, from being socially "blind" to being prone to meltdowns, from being unable to sleep to being unable to communicate effectively. The everyday world, with its ongoing social and sensory assault, must indeed seem daunting to individuals on the spectrum.
We hope this exploration of the challenges faced by people with ASD will provide insights that help family members, teachers, physicians and others better understand and support those with an ASD. We hope, too, that it may help those with ASD better understand themselves. There is no "Planet Autistic." Somehow, those with ASD have to find a way to make this planet home. It is up to the rest of us to make them feel welcome, safe, and appreciated for who they are as we support their efforts to live meaningful lives in what may seem a strange and alien land.