Exceptional individuals launched Great Minds Think Different Brighton a celebration event to educate businesses and individuals in the city on the unique skills and strengths people with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia have. Since the event their online neurodiversity tests have seen a huge surge in demand and April from the organisation wanted to share her story with the community about diagnosis. If you think you have any characteristics of Autism or relate to Aprils story you can do the online autism test on Exceptional Individuals website.
April’s Experience of Her Autism Diagnosis
April Slocombe, the author of this article, shares her experience of being diagnosed with autism and living with it.
When I was younger, I developed in certain areas later than most children my age did. I didn’t start to walk until I was one and a half years old, and I didn’t start to speak until I was two.
In 1991, my parents took my brother and me to a child psychiatrist when I was four and he was nearly three. The psychiatrist diagnosed us both with autism.
Autism is completely different in my brother and me. While I can talk and live independently with support when I need it, my brother is non-verbal and requires constant supervision and more support.
Despite my ability to speak and living in my own flat, I can find certain aspects of my autism challenging. I can have difficulty with mixing with others and maintaining eye contact. I also used to struggle with understanding everyday expressions. When I was younger, I thought, “cut it out,” literally meant cutting something out with a pair of scissors, but it actually means something like, “stop misbehaving.” I can also become anxious when there is an unexpected change in my schedule, such as when my flat cleaning with staff support is postponed.
My brother can also find changes to his routine distressing, such as when the swimming pool is closed on Christmas Day. To solve this problem, my family and I stayed at a hotel over Christmas where the swimming pool was open.
While my brother and I have our challenges with autism, we also have our strengths. I can express my feelings whether in writing or verbally and I have special interests in areas such as music, animation, art, film, and YouTube. My brother can communicate by using PECS cards (cards that have a picture and a word on them) to tell people what he wants or needs, making his daily schedule with the cards, and using a sand timer to count down the time he has left until an activity.
Although I was officially diagnosed with ASD and my brother was diagnosed with Kanner’s syndrome, I believed that I had Asperger syndrome when I was 14 upon reading a magazine article about a girl of my age who had Asperger syndrome. In 2021 whilst volunteering for Exceptional Individuals, I learnt that Asperger syndrome was no longer diagnosed in 2013 and was placed, along with Kanner’s syndrome, under the umbrella of autism. At this point, I reverted to thinking that I only had autism.
Why is Autism Diagnosis on the Rise?
A study has shown that more people have been diagnosed with autism in the past 2 decades. Find out what autism is, how it impacts people, the strengths of autism, why it is on the rise, and how the author lives with it.
What is Autism?
Autism, also known as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) or autistic spectrum condition (ASC) is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in the brain. People with autism often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviours or interests. They may also have different ways of moving, learning or paying attention.
How Does Autism Impact People?
Not only does autism impact the way people behave, communicate, and interact, but it can also affect them in the following ways:
Having difficulty with understanding how other people think or feel
Finding bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
Becoming anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations or events
Taking longer to understand information
What Are the Strengths of Autism?
Attention to detail
Creative and artistic talents
Mathematical and technical abilities
Interests and expertise in ‘niche’ areas
Character strengths such as honesty and loyalty
Why Are Autism Diagnoses on the Rise?
In a study from the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, diagnoses of autism have risen by 787% due to an effect of increasing recognition.
Between 1998 and 2018, the increase in autism diagnoses was greater in females than males despite autism being more common in males. The greatest rises were in adults.
To be more specific, 3,072 patients in England had a diagnosis of autism recorded in 1998, but this figure rose to 65,665 in 2018.
For the majority of the 20-year period, the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome was increasingly applied until it was removed from the DSM-5 in 2013.
The research also suggests that autism diagnoses are rising due to increased reporting and application of diagnosis.
According to VeryWell Health, the number of children who have received an autism diagnosis has risen consistently and dramatically since the 1990s. Also, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC0, approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States was diagnosed with autism as of 2016. In 2000, approximately 1 in 150 children was diagnosed with autism. At that same time, 1 in 34 boys was diagnosed with autism, whereas 1 in 144 girls was diagnosed.
While the exact reason for this increase is unknown, it is likely that significant changes in diagnostic criteria and reporting practices, in addition to greater awareness and possibly environmental factors, are responsible for the increase.
The removal of Asperger syndrome from DSM-5 in 2013 and its placement under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be one reason why autism diagnoses have increased.
According to Pediatrics in 2019, 1 in 91 children in 2009 had autism, whereas this figure increased to 1 in 40 in 2017. These results were based on telephone or in-person interviews with the parents of 88,530 children aged 3 – 17 years that the CDC collected as part of its National Health Interview Survey.