According to researches, there are around 700,000 autistic people living in the UK and more than 100,000 cases are reported annually in Nigeria.
Autism is a serious developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world, communicate, and interact with others.
Autistic people might find it hard talking with people, maintaining eye contact, or seem to repeat the same sentence again and again. At times, they may seem not to notice people, things, or activities in their surroundings. They also tend to have restrictive interests and repetitive behaviours such as always wanting to travel the same way to and from school or work, arranging objects, or hand flapping.
Because of its wide range of symptoms, autism is called a “spectrum” disorder and is 4 to 5 times common in males than females.
How to Identify an Autistic Person
Symptoms of autism typically appear during the first three years of life. Although symptoms do vary among affected people, there are known characteristics which are common to people affected by autism and they help in diagnosing the disorder.
Autistic people may find it difficult reading other people, recognising or understanding their feelings and intentions. They have difficulties interpreting both verbal and non-verbal languages and think people always mean what they say. An autistic child may not know there’s a difference in when their mom say “come here!” smiling, hands wide spread and when she says the same thing furious and palms on the waist.
They may also find it difficult to use or understand jokes, sarcasm, feelings, or facial expressions.
Restrictive Interests and Repetitive Behaviours
Autistic people tend to have unusual repetitive behaviours and/or engage in a restrictive range of activities.
Common repetitive behaviours include arranging and rearranging objects, repeating sentences or sounds, hand flapping, jumping and twirling.
Some adults are preoccupied with having household or other objects fixed in an order or place and it can be extremely upsetting if someone or something disrupts the order.
Some autistic people sometimes tend to have highly-focused and unusual interests such as opening up gadgets or collecting rubbish.
Many autistic people have unusual responses to sensory information or stimuli. Some are hypersensitive to sound, touch, smells, and/or sight. Others are hyposensitive to them.
Hypersensitivity may include the inability to tolerate being touched; being in a place with normal lighting; or finding certain sounds, which other people ignore or wouldn’t even notice. Hyposensitivity may include failure to respond when one’s name is called.
How You Can Help an Autistic Person
If you think someone you know is affected by autism, you should consult a doctor for medical advice.
If you’d rather discuss the subject with the affected individual to help them know their condition, read this article by The National Autistic Society: Broaching the subject.