Many people with autism also have difficulties with sensory stimulation. They can be hypersensitive (over-sensitive) or hyposensitive (under-sensitive) to certain sounds, tastes, smells, light or touch which can cause them distress or even physical pain. E.g. wearing a woollen jumper or the humming of a fluorescent light may physically cause extreme pain or, indeed, extreme fascination and pleasure. Visually, they might see detail but not the whole picture, or everything in a scene may appear the same size or distance. Aurally, they might hear all the sounds in the environment at the same volume. Even ordinary noises might hurt their ears.
On top of all this, many have problems with balance and the awareness of their body in space. They may:
- Bump into things
- Be awkward or clumsy with tools
- Press things too hard or too softly
- Keep cutting or grazing themselves
- Flap their hands
People with autism may have learning disabilities which can affect all aspects of their life, from studying in school to learning how to wash themselves or make a meal. As with autism, people can have different ‘degrees’ of learning disability, so some will be able to live fairly independently – although they may need some support to achieve this – while others may require lifelong, specialist support. However, all people with autism can, and do, learn and develop with the right sort of support.
Other conditions are sometimes associated with autism. These may include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or learning difficulties such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Difficulties with Organisation
People with autism have difficulties with organisation which makes doing the tasks we encounter on a daily basis extremely difficult. They like to be given just one instruction at a time and even then, may not know when the task is finished. They find it hard to remember what they might need for an activity or an outing. They will have trouble paying attention to two things at once and doing things in the right order. They might be able to do something in one place but not another. They might not acknowledge a person if they are not in their usual place. All of these things have a great impact on their performance in school and adult life.
Many people with autism have intense special interests, often from a fairly young age. These can change over time or be lifelong, and can be anything from art or music, to trains or computers. Some people with autism may eventually be able to work or study in related areas. For others, it will remain a hobby.