When I was looking back through my blogs, I realised that I hadn’t written anything on autism and given the links with many autistic individuals demonstrating PTSD and complex trauma which is naturally escalated for those people with neurodiversity I thought it would be a good idea to put some facts out there.
The reasons why PTSD, complex trauma and even bereavement and separation is escalated for those with a neurodiversity is because they have a greater amount of neural pathways in the brain, therefore, they have a lot to process before they can connect with the environment.

Autism is a condition with a range of clinical presentations from mild to severe, referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The most common clinical ASD sign is social-interaction impairment which is associated with verbal and non-verbal communication deficits and stereotyped obsessive behaviours. Many autistic individuals have a considerable understanding of the non-social world. For example, computers, physics, maths, engineering whilst they find the social world confusing. Those with ASD include:

– Albert Einstein
– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
– Charles Darwin
– Michelangelo
– Abraham Lincoln
– Susan Boyle
– Elon Musk
– Steve Jobs
– Bill Gates

Research suggests that ASD has a strong and complex genetic basis. Early studies of twins estimated the heritability of autism to be more than 90%, and when only one identical twin is autistic, the other often has some form of learning or social difficulties. For adult siblings, the likelihood of having one or more features of the broader autism phenotype might be as high as 30%.

Studies have also shown that whilst there needs to be a genetic link, some environmental factors may increase the risk of ASD. These include poor growth of the fetus during pregnancy, maternal inflammatory and autoimmune diseases may affect fetal neural tissues or aggravate a genetic issue, exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, especially heavy metals and particulates, and other factors that have been argued (without much evidence) are certain foods, infectious diseases, pesticides, alcohol, smoking, pre-natal stress and the MMR vaccine.

Studies have also shown that ASD may be under diagnosed in women and girls due to an assumption that it is primarily a male condition as it is diagnosed 4-5 times more often in males than females. Some of the theories that attempt to explain the social and communication symptoms/gender bias of ASD are:

– Empathising – systemising theory:

This theory suggests that the male brain is shaped to engage more of a systematic thinking than empathic thinking while a female brain engages more of an empathic thinking than systematic thinking. As ASD is generally biased towards systematic thinking, this could be a reason why more males are diagnosed of ASD as their brains are already naturally wired for higher systemising thinking.

– Extreme male brain theory of autism:

Following his work on the empathising-systemising theory, Baron-Cohen developed the extreme male brain theory of autism that proposes that “the male brain is programmed to systemise and the female brain to empathise…therefore, ASD represents the extreme male brain”.

– The fetal testosterone theory:

This theory hypothesises that higher levels of testosterone in the amniotic fluid of mothers push brain development towards improved ability to see patterns and analyse complex systems while diminishing communication and empathy and males generally have higher levels of fetal testosterone, contributing to their systemic thinking bias.

Females tend to find ways of coping with the autism too and can be better at covering up the symptoms.

Unfortunately, because of cutbacks children are waiting a long time before being diagnosed and even when they are diagnosed, they are struggling to get their needs met in school because of a lack of funding and also a lack of understanding from peer groups and teachers. Low self-esteem, low self-confidence, wanting to fit in and feeling different to others around them can mean that many children and adolescents slip through the net and revert to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol. Because of the complex trauma and PTSD that many experience because of their social difficulties, they are far more likely to be imprisoned which further retraumatises individuals rather than helping them. Maybe we need a more compassionate society that can more fully understand what is happening?

If we can recognise the need to embrace that individuality, and work to helping the autistic individual feel safe so they are not in a constant state of fight or flight, to be more compassionate towards others, maybe we can create a more welcoming, inclusive environment for those with neurodiversity.

If you would like more information or like to discuss any issues I more detail, please feel free to contact me.