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Autism Spectrum

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Many people with Autism also have other conditions or disabilities. This shows how important it it is to look at every individual on the Autism Spectrum as just that – an individual, with distinct needs, strengths and challenges. When a person has Autism and another condition it is vital that the challenges of both conditions are explored and addressed. It is also important to remember that if a person has Autism, the manner in which the other condition is explored and address may need to be adjusted so that it is suitable for someone with Autism. It is also important that the characteristics associated with Autism are explored in an autism context, not just as an “add-on” to another clinical need.

Below we will provide a short introduction to some conditions which commonly co-occur with Autism and point you to advocacy organisations with specific expertise in these areas.

There is a high occurrence of those with Autism who will also be diagnosed with another developmental condition such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD. There is also significant cross-over in terms of clinical needs and characteristics between the 4 conditions.

According to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, Dyslexia is  “a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities. Dyslexia is characterised by cognitive difficulties in (1) phonological processing, (2) working memory, and (3) speed of retrieval of information from long term memory. Dyslexic difficulties occur on a continuum from mild to severe and affect approximately 10% of the population. People with dyslexia may experience greater stress and frustration as they endeavour to learn, resulting in heightened anxiety, particularly in relation to literacy acquisition. People with dyslexia may also have accompanying learning strengths.”

To find out more about Dyslexia, visit the Dyslexia Association of Ireland website here.

According to the Dypraxia Association of Ireland, Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. It is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body

To find out more visit the Dyspraxia Association of Ireland’s website here.

According to Epilepsy Ireland,  the word ‘epilepsy’ is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to be seized, to be overwhelmed by surprise’. To have epilepsy is to have a tendency to have recurring seizures. Anyone can have a seizure, if the brain is exposed to a strong enough stimulus. We know that about 1 in every 20 people will have a single seizure at some time during their lives. Official figures received by Epilepsy Ireland support its estimation that there are over 37,000 people with epilepsy in Ireland.

People with Autism, and other developmental conditions, are significantly more likely to have epilepsy than the neurotypical population. It can also be difficult, at times, to separate seizures from autistic characteristics such as staring into space, stimming, repetitive behaviours, poor responsiveness or self-injurious behaviour. This can be especially true of people with Autism who have intellectual disabilities or communication difficulties.

To find out more about Epilepsy visit the Epilepsy Ireland website here.

Intellectual/Learning Disabilities

Between 30-40% of people with Autism also have an intellectual or learning disability. It is important that both needs are addressed and explored fully to ensure the person is able to reach their own personal potential. It is also important that the person’s education, workplace and community is accessible and accommodating to them as an individual, bearing in mind the additional needs from both diagnoses.

To find out more about Intellectual Disabilities visit Inclusion Ireland’s website here.

According to Down Syndrome Ireland, Down syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly caused by an error in cell division that results in the presence of an additional third chromosome 21 or “trisomy 21.” This extra genetic material results in the physical and learning characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is one of the most common known causes of intellectual disability.

Down Syndrome is a lifelong condition but with the right support, those with the condition can be supported to live happy and independent lives.

To find out more about Down Syndrome visit Down Syndrome Ireland’s website here.

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