Autism and Echolalia

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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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˜› ).

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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™‚

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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.

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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˜‰ )

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Enjoy the weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

Autism and “Stimming”

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I’d like to touch on one of the most commonly observed autistic behaviours- “stimming”.

So what exactly is “stimming?”

Self-stimulatory behaviour, (also known as stereotypy or “stimming”), refers to many of the repetitive behaviours often exhibited by autists. Examples of these behaviours include scratching or rubbing the skin, noise making, smelling objects and the classic examples of rocking andย  hand flapping, although in my experience it’s a lot more like ‘Jazz hands’ than flapping!

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There are two psychological theories as to why autists stim:

  • As a response to overwhelming sensory stimuli
  • As a means of relieving stress and anxiety

From a physiological perspective, there are a number of possible biological reasons.

Some researchers believe that stimming provides the autist with sensory stimulation. Contrary to common belief, many people with autism have a reduced sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli. Dysfunctions in the circuitry of the brain mean that the body craves sensory stimulation, and so we adapt repetitive behaviours in order to stimulate and excite our nervous system.

Deficits in dopamine levels in the brain can also interfere with our reward pathways, leading autists to engage in behaviours, such as stimming, which will provide the extra hit of dopamine that the brain needs.

So that’s why I’m drawn to fluffy things! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Aside from being drawn to stimulatory texures, I have a particular tendency to fidget with the silver chain around my neck. I just find something oddly soothing about the rough sensation of the metal against my skin! ๐Ÿ˜›

In my experience, I also find that stimming isn’t always a response to stress, but born from a need to keepย my hands busy.

As I’ve discussed previously, research shows that autists have higher levels of excitatory neurotransmitters such as glutamate, and lower levels of calming neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, we are often hyper-stimulated. Stimulation of the brain’s reward system, i.e.ย  dopamine release through “stimming” behaviour, causes a decrease in glutamate levels, effectively calming the brain!

This would explain why I’ve often found that stimming sometimes helps me to concentrate and clear my mind by channeling any excess energy into a physical action. I find this particularly helpful when I’m studying, or writing, and for some strange reason while I’m waiting for the microwave to ping! ๐Ÿ˜› #excitedforfood

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Stimming can also be considered a form of self injurious behaviour, but I’ll write a separate post on this topic at a later stage ๐Ÿ™‚

So is there anything that can be done to control this type of behaviour?

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  • Try replacement behaviours– if the stim is not socially acceptable or harmful, as in the case of biting behaviours, attempt to replace the stim with another one such as a fidget toy or chewing rubber
  • Exercise– there is evidence to suggest that exercising can decrease the frequency of stimming behaviours, although the research is unclear why
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)– is thought to be useful as self stimulatory behaviour operates in a similar way to OCD tendencies which are often managed through CBT techniques
  • Medication– Seems there’s a pill for everything these days! Medications can be used to help modify compulsive behaviours such as stimming, but I personally would not advocate this route

So there we have it Earthlings, a brief insight into stimming behaviours in autism! ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy the weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Aoife

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