Autism and Catatonia

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

So this week I’d like to talk about a rare condition that affects approximately 12-18% of autistic adults- autistic catatonia.

But what exactly is this when it’s at home?

Image result for hmm gif

Autistic catatonia is a neuropsychiatric condition that causes abnormalities in behaviours, speech and motor functions with varying degrees of severity. In other words, it’s a form of autistic breakdown- one that is often misdiagnosed.

There are over 40 symptoms associated with the condition, many of which overlap with autistic symptoms and traits, so it can be quite challenging to diagnose- even for the most experienced professionals in the field. Symptoms may include mutism, hyperactivity, immobility, stupor, agitation, odd repetitive movements and echolalia.ย Due to the overlap in symptoms, it’s thought that this condition may be far more prevalent among autists than we realize.

catatonia.png

But what causes it?

As with autism, it’s cause too remains a mystery, however it is thought that vitamin deficiencies, trauma, infection and co-morbid disorders such as schizophrenia and biopolar disorder may contribute to it.

So how do we treat it?

There are currently no cures for autistic catatonia, however a number of therapies have been used to manage symptoms such as antidepressants, muscle relaxers, benzodiazapines (such as Lorazepam) and anti psychotics. Electroconvulsive therapy (shock therapy), brain stimulation and NMDA receptor antagonists (a class of anesthetic drugs that are often used recreationally e.g ketamine, nitrous oxide, PCP and the heroin substitute methadone) have also been controversially used to treat catatonia.

There is limited research in this area at present as to how best to treat autistic catatonia, however a psychological approach to treat underlying stress and anxieties which may trigger catatonia is thought to be the best.

Whilst there is no cure, as in the case of autism, with early detection and intervention the condition can be managed ๐Ÿ™‚

bitmoji1327220945

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings and that you’re Christmas preparations are coming along nicely ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

 

Autism and Attachment to Objects/Toys

 

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I’d like to briefly talk about autism and attachment to toys and or objects.

teddy

Why Aoife I hear you ask? Is it not “normal” for children to be attached to toys, blankets, teddies etc.?

Indeed, as many as 70% of children will be so attached to a particular toy that they take it everywhere, however, for autists, the attachment can last late into childhood and beyond (some autists are even more attached to objects than people).

Take Jamie Knight for example (a computer programmer who was involved in the creation of the BBC iPlayer). Since college, Jamie’s childhood teddy ‘Lion’ goes everywhere with him.

Related image

In my own case, I had a particular rabbit “teddy” (although it was more sock than teddy by the time I let it go from all of my mother’s repairs ๐Ÿ˜ฌ)ย  that I couldn’t sleep without until I was 16, as embarrassing as that is to admit-but hey we can blame it on the Asperger’s! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

Other autists have been known to be attached to more obscure objects than soft cuddly toys, such as batteries, fruits and vegetables, cereal boxes, even sticks!

bitmoji-20180828091917

But why does the attachment to such objects endure for autists beyond childhood?

The reasoning for attachment to objects remains unclear however, the general thinking is that these attachments offer comfort (especially as more textured items offer opportunities for stimming), and stability, helping to ground autists in a world (to their mind) spinning out of control.

In Jamie’s case for example, carrying around Lion is a coping mechanism, providing him with structure, consistency and a sense of comfort. When overwhelmed, the familiar texture and scent reinforces a sense of structure and routine to quickly soothe the mind.

Similarly, artist, comedian and performerย Tilley Milburn relies on her pig Del to navigate everyday life, providing her with comfort and a medium through which she can communicate by proxy in overwhelming situations. For example, her mother often says that Del is more reasonable than she is, so she will often ask to talk to Del!ย ๐Ÿ˜‚

These attachments might seem a little odd, but they can serve a very important purpose, so don’t be too quick to judge an adult carrying around a plush toy ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy the weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

Autism and Echolalia

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

This week we’re going to talk about something that effects approximately 75% of autists- Echolalia.

Image result for what in the world gif

I know, I know, it’s a mouthful- but echolalia is actually quite simple:

Echolaliaย is the meaningless repetition of noises, words or phrases immediately after their occurrence (although sometimes this can be delayed).

Derived from Greekย echo, โ€œto repeat,โ€ andย laliรก,ย meaning โ€œtalkโ€ or โ€œspeech,โ€ Echolalia is an automatic and unintentional behaviour.ย ย In most cases Echolalia is used in an attempt to communicate, practice or even learn language. In fact, Echolalia isย part of normal development- every child experiences Echolalia when they learn a spoken language.

However, whilst “normal”, this behaviour can persist for longer in autists.

But why might this be?

Psychologically speaking, Echolalia is considered by some to simply be a repetitive or self-stimulatory behaviourย in autists (as some experience this behaviour only when they are stressed), however, the general school of thought is that it is a communicative behaviour. Imitative behaviour is an essential part of social learning. As autists struggle so much socially, this imitative behaviour can act as a tool to help improve their social skills.

I’ve certainly exhibited such imitative behaviour during my formative years. For example, I somehow got it into my head that in my final year of primary school I needed to practice my swearing so that I would better be able to fit in when I made the jump to secondary school!ย ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ™ˆ Wasn’t especially successful- sure I could swear like a sailor, buuuuuut it didn’t do much to improve my social skills or status (but I suppose I sounded a little less like a walking thesaurus for a change! ๐Ÿ˜› ).

woof.png

On the biological side of things, much of the physiology of Echolalia remains to be explored, however, one study indicates that the ITGB3 gene (which carries the information for ฮฒ3 integrin- a cell membrane protein that will interact with other proteins to trigger a number of biochemical reactions in our cells) seems to link autism and echolalia.

There we have it now Earthlings I hope you enjoyed this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a lovely weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€

Aoife

Autism Management- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I’d like to briefly examine one of the most commonly recommended therapies for autism management- cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT.

So let’s all lean back in our chez long as we dive in! ๐Ÿ™‚

dgdfd_Ink_LI.jpg

First off, what exactly is CBT?

Originally designed as a treatment for depression, CBT is a form of psycho-social intervention (i.e. counselling/psychotherapy) that is widely used to help improve mental health. Unlike other forms of therapy, CBT focuses on developing coping strategies to target our problems and to change unhelpful patterns in emotions, attitudes, negative behaviours,ย  and thought patterns.

In other words- CBT aims to change negative ways of thinking or cognitions in order to improve behaviour.

counselling

As a result, CBT is widely used to treat anxiety, depression, eating disorders,ย OCD and a range of other psychological issues- many of which are co-morbid with an ASD diagnosis. It’s thought that CBT can be a particularly useful tool to treat anxiety and to help develop emotional recognition in autists.

CBT was personally recommended to me following my initial diagnosis in order help me to better understand autism and to conquer my social anxiety.

So what did I make of it?

Well, being honest (as we aspies must be ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), my opinions are slightly mixed regarding CBT. Whilst initially I found it helpful as it taught me a lot about autism and the reasons behind my behaviours, after a time, I felt that I didn’t really need it- especially given that I was in my twenties and had already overcome many of the challenges associated with ASD’s. In many ways, simply knowing and understanding Asperger’s Syndrome was enough to assuage much of the mental anguish I had inflicted on myself for being different ๐Ÿ™‚

Nevertheless, I did find it beneficial to have a neutral party to talk to in those first initial months post diagnosis. It’s quite a lot to take on board, so it was nice to have that outlet to help guide me through the fog.

All in all, I felt that perhaps CBT may be better suited for a younger person with autism in helping them to develop lifelong coping mechanisms that will enable them to thrive. Had I better understood myself earlier in life through CBT intervention, many things could have been so much simpler ๐Ÿ™‚

So if you think CBT may help you or your child, why not give it a try- get out your phone, book an appointment and take a seat on that couch (it’s surprisingly comfy ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

jgg.png

Enjoy the weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

Can animals have autism?

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I’d like to explore something I’ve been wondering about a lot recently: can animals be autistic?

We’ve often been told how closely related human and animal genomes are, but what about our brains?

I often look at my German Shepherd and see a lot of autistic traits in him- he has ADHD and anxiety, behaves inappropriately, thinks creatively (he once buried a bone in a mattress) and never really grew out of his puppy brain despite recently turning 6!

Image result for crazy dog gif

^^^Not my dog, but similarly bonkers! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

Naturally, I could be imagining it (as a scientist it’s hard not to over analyse), but what does the evidence have to say?

In clinical research, there are a number of animal models which have been genetically bred to exhibit autistic traits including rats, fruit flys, monkeys and most commonly mice. These animals will have mutations in genes that have been linked to autism which causes them to exhibit some common autistic traits. In the mouse model for example, mice show signs of repetitive behaviours, deficits in social interaction and reciprocation, memory deficits and increased aggression.

But what about in nature?

There is very little evidence to suggest that animals can be autistic, however, a recent study by veterinary behaviorists in the USA has indicated that there is evidence ofย canine autism!ย 

 whoa shock waynes world waynes world 2 GIF

I know!

Maybe I should get my dog diagnosed… ๐Ÿ˜‰

In fact, vets have considered the possibility of autism like symptoms in dogs since 1966!!

The 2015 study examined tail chasing behaviours in bull terriers in addition to running DNA analysis. ย These researchers found that tail chasing was associated with trance-like behaviour and random outbursts of aggression in these dogs. In addition to this, tail chasing was more common in males than females- just like human ASD’s. This group also suggested that the physical featuresย of these bull terriers (long face, high-arched palate, and large ears)ย could be indicative of Fragile X Syndrome- ย a genetic condition where 15-60% of this population are additionally diagnosed with autism.

This study is not definitive, but it does open us up to the possibility that autism may naturally exist in the animal kingdom.

As autism can be difficult enough to diagnose in humans, you never know- other animals could quite possibly have autism, we’ve just never considered it! ๐Ÿ™‚

bitmoji-1628445894.png

Aoife

Social Awkwardness & Autism

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Soooo today we’re going to talk about perhaps one of the biggest banes of my life- social awkwardness! ๐Ÿ˜›

I’m not going to lie- social awkwardness is not fun. The constant fear of saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to say, the burning sensation in your face that’s never far away (huzzah for unintentional rhyming! ๐Ÿ˜€ ).

This article sums up the feeling pretty nicely through gifs’ s:

http://mashable.com/2013/08/15/awkward-gifs/#N36QeeXevGqn

Sitting awkwardly by yourself waiting for friends to arrive in a pub, tapping your glass and constantly sipping just to look like you belong, the pitying glances of bar staff when they see you at a table alone-the awkwardness can be all consuming.

ddddd.png

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to run from/avoid social encounters because of this awkward feeling.

Awkwardness is worse still when you’re hit by memories of previous awkward encounters! It’s a real domino effect- one awkward memory brings dozens more to the surface until you’re drowning in the red hot embarrassment of a cringe attack! ๐Ÿ˜›

I am constantly haunted by memories of my social awkwardness, buuuut as time goes on, you eventually learn not to dwell on your social failings ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a struggle yes, but you can push through the awkwardness. Over the years I’ve devised ways to navigate the rapids- making self deprecating jokes, keeping a mental list of backup topics for awkward silences, chugging a drink you’ve been bought (but don’t like) while your friend is in the bathroom so they don’t see your disgusted facial expressions ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

Social awkwardness may be a pain, but ultimately you can’t let the fear of getting wet keep you from swimming the social seas ๐Ÿ™‚

Who knows-you might even put your awkward stories to good use in a blog some day! Comedy is tragedy plus time after all! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

But is there any scientific reason for our social awkwardness?

Remember oxytocin?

Scientists have linked gene variations in the oxytocin receptor (which allows oxytocin to bind and interact with the body) to autism. Evidence indicates that people with autism have a specific variation in the oxytocin receptor (rs53576) which makes it more difficult for them to empathize, read facial expressions and social situations- predisposing us to social awkwardness.

In addition to this, psychologists have suggested that social awkwardness is all about perception. Awkwardness is thought to be influenced by the individuals perception of how a social situation should play out versus reality. If a social interaction does not go as planned…then the awkward turtle swims into view!

Image result for awkward turtle gif

This is a particularly interesting hypothesis. Oftentimes I find myself feeling awkward when silence falls in social settings as I perceive conversational silence to be awkward….aaaand then I tend to ramble on nonsensically to fill that silence! ๐Ÿ˜›

In reality, the silence may not in actual fact be awkward. Companionable silence is perfectly natural; the awkwardness I feel may inadvertently be of my own creation!

So it seems that perhaps social awkwardness in autism comes from the disparity between perception and reality in social interaction.

Social awkwardness is also thought to ironically help people improve their social skills! It has been theorized that social awkwardness acts as a warning system to help us to recognize that we have made social mistakes so that we will not repeat them in the future.

Seeing as autists struggle with social communication and interaction, it stands to reason that we often feel awkward so that we might improve our social skills in the future.

Image result for oh i understand gif

So social awkwardness may in fact serve a purpose in autism! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Enjoy the weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑