What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
To provide a clearer depiction of what Autism Spectrum Disorder is, imagine you’re in a room filled with people, but you cannot communicate effectively. You have something to say but are not sure when it is appropriate to speak and how you should phrase your thought. You find
it difficult to look at people and have received feedback that you’re not friendly enough. People constantly say that you need to work on social skills, but you don’t know how. You want to contribute to the conversation but sometimes are told that you were too blunt or said the wrong thing. In the end, you may leave saying nothing after so many failed attempts.
What is Social Communication?
What does it mean to struggle with social communication? In general, autistic people often do not pick up on the typical social cues the way neurotypical (not-neurodivergent) people do. For example, neurotypicals have all been in situations when a friend is telling a story and although we do not find it interesting, due to social norms, we nod along and feign excitement. An autistic person is likely to express their boredom verbally or just stop attending to the conversation without realizing there are social consequences. They may not realize if a conversation becomes uncomfortable for other people, so conversations may continue even when they are inappropriate. At the same time, many conversations considered "normal" may be awkward and uncomfortable for autistic people, if they do not understand the purpose of the conversation or the intent of the neurotypical conversation partner.
When autistic people do find a topic they enjoy, they may become preoccupied and obsessed, which may limit their friendships if they cannot find others who share their interest or are willing to engage with it. Autistic people may struggle with interpreting nonverbal forms of communication such as interpreting facial expressions, and are often uncomfortable with neurotypical demands for eye contact during conversation. Autistic people may struggle to moderate their tone to send emotional messages that neurotypicals will understand, such as unintentionally speaking in a monotone or speaking too loudly or too formally for the setting they are in (i.e. speaking to friends at a party the way you would speak in class).
Additionally, autistic people often depend on routines and dislike change due to heightened anxiety and lack of understanding in new situations. They also may experience hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity to sensory input such as sounds, lights, and textures, due to differences in the autistic nervous system.
These differences and a lack of support or understanding for how autistic people experience the world can affect relationships, employment, and general health. They can make daily activities challenging, confusing, and at times overwhelming. Neurodivergent people, such as those on the autism spectrum, work hard throughout their lives to better understand the confusing social world around them, and professional assistance can be helpful in supporting that work.
Clarification About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Not all individuals on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience the same struggles in the same ways, and it is not always obvious if a person is autistic or not. It’s important to understand that many autistic people are undiagnosed, can carry a conversation and maintain relationships, and are able to work and attend school. In fact, many exhibit exceptional development. Addressing challenges should be tailored to each individual.
There are many positive skills and traits that are associated with autism. These characteristics include increased ability to focus on details, capacity to persevere without being swayed by others’ opinions, ability to work independently, recognition of patterns that may be missed by others, heightened perception of some sensations, and determination and an original way of thinking. It is important to remind yourself of these unique skills you (or your child) have which can help you be successful in many areas of life.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) test
We offer testing for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the Sachs Center. The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) test is two hours long and consists of a clinical interview where we learn about your past and current traits. We also offer specific evidence-based ASD tests from third-party researchers.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Treatment
The Sachs Center has groups for autistic adults and children. Offering safe spaces for its members, and custom-designed group experiences, our groups allow teens and adults to connect and share their unique neurodiverse perspectives.
We have a new online social skills group for children ages 8-12 called the Dragon Masters. Check it out here.
The Sachs Center also has online support groups for autistic adults. Call or email us for information on that group.
We offer a unique group for autistic African-Americans called BASE, the Black Autism Spectrum Experience.
Social difficulties are often the most challenging obstacles for autistic adults. This is compounded by a sense of rejection by the African American community, which has historically dismissed mental health problems and neurodivergence. BASE group therapy sessions offer African-American individuals with shared struggles the opportunity to connect and learn skills that will help them better navigate future social situations. Group topics often include:
- Understanding the feelings of being different.
- Working with and mitigating pressures received from family and society.
- How to understand and process the anxieties of dating and finding a partner.
- Setting healthy boundaries with friends and family.
- Discuss popular social topics like movies and video games.
The Sachs Center also maintains connections through the Birch Family Services of Manhattan to help clients find supportive and engaging employment opportunities.
Reach out to us below to learn more.
Contact the Sachs Center in Manhattan, New York to learn if you or a loved one may be neurodivergent.