Everyone is different
People with autism are very different from one another. Spectrum refers to the wide variation in manifestation. For example, some make friends easily but have difficulty with change. For others, it can be the opposit.
The symptoms improve with increasing age. Students with ASD often still experience difficulties with:
- Social interactions and responding to social cues. There is a clear need for social contacts, but making and maintaining spontaneous friendships is often not easy.
- Noticing and understanding nonverbal cues in communication. Interpreting body language, intonation, facial expressions and gestures in communication and using nonverbal cues is often difficult.
- New situations and unexpected changes. Assessing quickly and intuitively how to behave in new situations is hard. Unexpected changes also cause stress and anxiety. Often there is a very conscious weighing up and reasoning about how to present oneself in new situations and this often requires a lot of energy. Structure and routines bring calm.
- Right amount of focus and intensity on interests. Most people with ASD have specific interests, which are especially characterised by abnormal focus and high intensity.
- Processing sensory stimuli. An over- or under-sensitivity to certain stimuli such as sounds, light, smells, tastes, or touch divert attention and can lead to confusion, anxiety and fatigue.
In their focus to build a new social identity, students often decide not to disclose their diagnosis and they find it difficult to take the first step towards seeking (professional) help.
The difficulties have an impact on students' well-being. ASD is often accompanied by additional mental disorders. In (young) adults with ASD, anxiety disorders, depression and ADHD are common.