- Walks on the tippy toes.
- Walks into walls.
- Stomps like she is wearing Frankenstein shoes, loud and forceful
- Is unable to figure out personal space. Gets too close or stands too far away.
- Has poor eye/hand coordination. Simple tasks like tying a shoe or braiding hair may be nearly impossible.
- Displays odd large motor coordination. For example, throwing a ball and skipping may be very difficult if not impossible.
- Pulls her hair (or eyebrows or eyelashes) out. Chews hair. Knots hair. Won’t allow hair to be brushed and/or washed.
- Is a very picky eater who might actually throw up at the smell of a food, or tantrum when a food she doesn’t like is brought to the table.
- Describes beverages as too thick, gooey or some other odd adjective.
- Develops an eating disorder.
- Consistently or often suffers from stomachaches, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome could occur.
- Covers ears at sudden or loud noises.
- Startles at sudden noises or when someone touches her.
- Flaps, turn circles, and acts out in odd ways when stressed by too many visual or auditory distractions.
- Vomits or complains at certain smells.
- Touches or avoids touching everything she sees from cracks in mud to dangerous jellyfish.
- Refuses to touch or go near almost every thing in the environment from silk fabrics to craft dough.
- Wears shoes, belts, scarves and other accessories as tight as handcuffs on a prisoner.
- Refuses to wear anything tight or will only wear extremely tight.
- Talks in one big monologue.
- Shows signs of an above average vocabulary at an early age.
- Reads at an early age is typical, though when a comprehension test is given it becomes clear the child is word calling having memorized the words without realizing what the sentences mean and the story is saying.
- Sounds like a robot or brilliant professor giving a lecture without much change in speech rate or pitch and tone.
- Interrupts people when they are talking.
- Walks away in the middle of a conversation as if it is the perfectly normal thing to do.
- Resists talking, but points, grunts or draws to show you what she wants.
- Shares infrequently, if ever.
- Is rarely invited to play with other children.
- Plays with animals more often than other people.
- Has few friendships or only one friend at a time.
- Shows extreme sensitivity to teasing.
- Shows ill temper or illness at parties, theme parks and other large group activities.
- Plays with imaginary friends and in pretend worlds only she can see.
- Has an unnatural reaction to pain (doesn’t respond, responds too dramatically)
- Plays pretend in an odd way. For instance, dolls are arranged by size or hair color. Favorite things get displayed on a shelf in a certain way and are not played with in traditional ways. Large collections are categorized in some way.
- Illustrates poor handwriting. For example, cursive might be particularly difficult, words might not have spaces between them, and sentences will often lean upwards or downwards, but rarely straight across unlined paper.
- Can’t hold the writing tools correctly, holding them too hard and almost like one would hold a knife they are ready to slice into a watermelon.
- Insists on wearing only one piece of favored clothing.
- Can’t wear clothes with tags and other scratchy things in the seams.
- Misunderstands jokes, sarcasm, innuendos and double meanings, metaphors, plays on words, etc.
- Doesn’t comprehend beyond the very literal.
- May laugh at the wrong thing or laugh at the wrong time, for example, at a funeral or during a religious service.
- Is unable to put herself in someone else's shoes, making empathy and understanding other people's point of view difficult if not impossible.
- Talks too bluntly.
- Has narrow and deep and sometimes, all encompassing interests.
- Makes poor eye contact or will be piercing like a wolf on his prey.
- Has an excellent memory, particularly visual memory. Tends to think in pictures.
- Shows splinter skills where some of our talents are super high on the achievement chart and others are very low.
- Melts down when there is a change in a routine.
- Can’t cut with scissors.
- Can’t dance, tumble or do skills like jumping jacks.
Someone might have autism if she...
I've long been an independent / loner who prefers solitude over groups. For years now my counselor has been encouraging me to get out in the world and play well with others. Yikes. That's a tall order for someone who is happy being in my own world, and a bit reticent to put my foot in the path of others. It's always been easier for me to relate to (and trust) animals, nature and my own mind. I know how to look like I'm enjoying others and indeed, sometimes I do! But if given a choice, chances are high I'm going to want to be alone, even in the midst of crowds, museum tours, restaurants, athletic events, shopping... you get the point. My counselor asked me to consider the effects of my behavior over the long haul. He asked me if this loner lifestyle was truly healthy for my mental and physical growth as I enter the last lap of life. Research does indeed show that as we age, it is important to have community, human touch, and connections. Apparently our brains and our bodies need one another even if only to shake a hand, exchange a greeting or give a high five. Those tiny behaviors aren't difficult for me to do, I just don't think about doing them that often. So... I made a decision this summer to put myself out there and join a group within which I felt I'd have a halfway decent chance of being accepted; a group I thought I'd enjoy. Seven weeks ago I joined a rowing club in my hometown. I love it. The people are kind, helpful and joined together by a common love for the sport of rowing. And therein lies the sweet spot. Tony Attwood has long told our community it is often easiest and most effective to belong to groups that share a liking for a passion. In those groups, personalities fade in comparison to the talk of the event, the sport, the creating of whatever it is we like. As per his usual, Dr. Attwood is correct. In rowing, we talk about rowing. The dialogue doesn't flow into politics or religion or what we do for a living or if we're married or anything really beyond- how do I get a good stroke, how do I hold the oar properly, or should I pop this blister now or wait until it calluses on its own!
My new enjoyment in an activity that brings people together around individual abilities mixed in with a group effort, is turning out to be grand. Until now, I've only shared a love for socializing around the horse world. Now, I can add a love for rowing, too. And in these two events, I find community that doesn't require me to give up who I am, pretend to be 'normal', or fake my way through. At almost 57 years old, I can unequivocally say, I am having fun and I am learning that indeed, some socializing with human beings can be advantageous to my mind and my health.
I encourage you to find something you like that is not computer bound (eek! Scary, I know...) rather it be quilting, swimming, birdwatching, collecting stats for sporting events, working with animals, rowing- anything you like - and see if you agree you can connect to and enjoy a new layer of life without exhausting your stress level or your individuality.
I lived for 23 years with no idea of the condition I had in my brain. That condition was Asperger’s Syndrome. I battled through my life with a number of separate psychiatric labels, each representing only small parts of my difficulties: Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, Depression... you get the gist. To be given the label of Asperger’s eased my inner conflict massively; I finally had an umbrella term where all these difficulties could make sense.
It is fair to say that my ‘special interests’ are centred more on people than things. One of the ways I have learnt to cope with my impairments is to monitor others around me, and learn how to ‘fit in’ through imitation. As I have gotten older this has moved into the more complex realm of Psychology, and understanding why people behave the way they do. I figured people are no different really to learning how to use a computer; we all have inputs and outputs. I tackle my own thoughts, feelings and behaviours with the same sort of obsessive rigour as scientists trying to find a particular vaccine in the midst of a pandemic, which is how I ended up doing a PhD studying autism in females.
I wanted to know if I was alone, why it took me so long to get a diagnosis, and how I had managed to adapt so well socially despite my impairments. What I have learnt so far is that there are hundreds of females out there in the same position as me, all wonderfully unique and kind human beings with bucket loads of empathy; not what the media teaches us autistic individuals look like! It can be tiring being so personally invested in the research that I am doing, it feels like I cannot get away from autism; at work, at home, it is present in everything I do and think. It also requires a certain amount of stepping back and objectivity, a skill I am perhaps yet to master fully. The condition lends itself to quite an egocentric perspective, so I am having to consciously think ‘can I really speak for everyone here?’ and learn about the different experiences other people with autism have had.
Whilst the majority of feedback I have received from the work has been positive, it appears you cannot become too big on the internet before trolls start attacking you, which has been the hardest hurdle to face (including all the research ethics forms I have had to fill in!). Being told by people who do not know you and have only read an article that you are a fraud and cannot possibly have the condition hurts, especially when you came to the club quite late and have lived with those doubts all your life. If the research was not so personal to me then perhaps I would be able to take these knocks on the chin, but that is the nature of the beast.
Overall doing my PhD on my own condition has opened up many doors for me, in understanding myself and those around me. From this work I created my own blog (www.aspertypical.com) and a group specially dedicated to women on the spectrum. I think it is vital that more research on autism is led by autistic individuals, as challenging as it may be for us to conduct I think that personal perspective within the research is paramount to understanding the condition.
PhD Student / Research Assistant / Associate Lecturer
Grad Soc Digital Marketer (2014 - present)
Anglia Ruskin University,
Faculty of Science and Technology, Psychology Dept.
Research Gate Profile / Linked In Profile
Author of www.aspertypical.com
Tips and Advice for First Responders from Autism Safety Consultant (and retired investigative agency owner) Dennis Debbaudt
Logo © Dennis Debbaudt 2004-16 All Rights Reserved
Autism & Law Enforcement: 25 Field Response Tips
Dennis Debbaudt 2016
Law enforcement professionals may unexpectedly interact with or be asked to find a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recognizing the behavioral symptoms and knowing contact approaches can minimize situations of risk. You may learn the person has ASD from 911 dispatch, family member or someone at the scene, or the person himself or herself.
The following are 25 field response tips for officers:
1. Make sure the person is unarmed and maintain a safe distance because they may suddenly invade your personal space.
2. Talk calmly and softly.
3. Speak in direct, short phrases such as: “Stand up now.” or “Get in the car.”
4. Avoid slang expressions, such as: “What’s up your sleeve?” or “Are you pulling my leg?”
5. Allow for delayed responses (10-15 seconds) to your questions or commands.
6. Repeat or rephrase questions.
7. Consider use of pictures, written phrases/commands, sign language or computer images.
8. Use low gestures for attention; avoid rapid pointing or waving.
9. Examine for presence of medical alert jewelry or tags, or an autism handout card.
10. Model calming body language (such as slow breathing and keeping hands low).
11. Model the behavior you want the person to display.
12. A person with autism may not react well to changes in routine or the presence of strangers, even a uniformed responder.
13. Officers should not interpret the person’s failure to respond to orders or questions as a lack of cooperation or a reason for increased force.
14. Seek information and assistance from parent or others at the scene about how to communicate with and de-escalate the person’s behavior.
15. Avoid stopping repetitive behaviors unless there is risk of injury to yourself or others.
16. If the individual is holding and appears to be fascinated with an inanimate object, consider allowing subject to hold the item for the calming effect (if officer safety is not jeopardized by doing so).
17. Evaluate for injury: person may not ask for help or show any indications of pain, even though injury seems apparent.
18. Be aware that the person may be having a seizure.
19. Be aware of person’s self-protective responses and sensitivities to lights, sounds, touches, orders, and animals - canine or mounted patrol.
20. If possible, turn off sirens and flashing lights and remove canine partners, crowds, or other sensory stimulation from the scene
21. If person’s behavior escalates, use geographic containment and maintain a safe distance until any inappropriate behaviors lessen
22. Remain alert to the possibility of outbursts or impulsive acts
23. Use your discretion. If you have determined that the person is unarmed and have established geographic containment, use all available time to allow the person to deescalate themselves without your intervention.
24. If in custody, alert jail authorities. The person would be at risk in general prison population.
25. REMEMBER: Each individual with autism is unique and may act or react differently. PLEASE contact a professional who is familiar with autism. (Debbaudt & Legacy, 2005)
Autism & Law Enforcement Contacts:
Autism is America’s fastest growing developmental disability. Autism is estimated to affect as many as one in every 68 children (CDC- NCBDDD, 2012). Research indicates that people, who have developmental disabilities, including autism, will have up to seven times more contacts with police than a member of the general public (Curry et al, 1993).
Children and adults with autism now live, work, go to school and recreate in the community. Law enforcement professionals will have field interactions with children and adults with autism, their parents and care providers.
People with autism are as different from each other as we all are. They may inherently present autism spectrum-based behaviors and characteristics in different combinations and degrees.
Each person will have a different level of independence as well. Some persons with autism will have a caregiver with them at all times. Others will live semi or fully independent lives. Both may have public safety or criminal justice contacts. In most cases, the person will have difficulties following your verbal commands, reading your body language, and will have deficits in social understanding. As with many Alzheimer’s patients, less independent children and adults with autism may wander away from care and into danger.
Whether as offender or victim-witness, persons on the autism spectrum will present dilemmas in the interview and interrogation room. Their concrete answers, conceptions, and reactions to even the most standard interrogation techniques can cause confusion for even the best trained, seasoned veterans. Autism-specific training can help criminal justice professionals save time and resources and avoid taking misleading statements or false confessions.
© Dennis Debbaudt 2004-16 All Rights Reserved
For direct training, curriculum and video development, contact:
Dennis Debbaudt at 772-398-9756 (son with autism may answer phone) email email@example.com web: autismriskmanagement.com and debbaudtlegacy.com
Center for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Web Site. Accessed March, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Curry, K., Posluszny, M. and Draska, S. (1993) Training Criminal Justice Personnel to Recognize Offenders with Disabilities. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News In Print.
Debbaudt, D. and Rothman, D. (2001) Contact With Individuals With Autism: Effective Resolutions.FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 7, 4, 20-24.
Debbaudt, D. (2002) Autism, Advocates and Law Enforcement Professionals: Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Debbaudt, D. (2003) Safety Issues for Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome. In Liane Holliday Willey (ed) Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs and Things in Between. London-Philadelphia. Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Debbaudt, D.Autism: Managing Police Field Contacts, International Association of Chiefs of Police, June, 2013.
Debbaudt D. and Legacy, D. (2004) Autism & Law Enforcement Roll Call Briefing
Debbaudt D. and Legacy, D. (2009) Autism, Fire-Rescue and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Debbaudt D. and Legacy, D. (2009) Autism in the Criminal Justice System on behalf of the State of North Carolina
A life lived with an autism spectrum challenge can become a journey filled with too many bumps and falls that leave permanent aches and scars on who we are and who we are meant to be. The struggle to fit in, the misunderstandings, the exhaustion that follows even a simple day, can leave a person with bone cracking anguish and a soul filled with hurt.
But it doesn’t have to.
I challenge you to wake up each morning with a deep appreciation for who you are and for what you can do. Love yourself. Love your flaws and your strengths, your quirks and your gifts, for each bit of who you are makes you the best you can be.
Learn from your mistakes and pass on the wisdom of your new knowledge to those who might benefit from your experiences. Share who you are and how you came to be you, and you will have turned a negative into a positive.
Never take yourself or your mishaps too seriously. Laugh at yourself. Laughter isn’t just the best medicine; it is the medicine that can heal any pain, no matter how deep the pain goes.
Daydream. Indulge in your favorite music. Read a book that brings you bliss. Take photographs of things that bring you joy. Doodle silly things. Learn a new hobby. Dare yourself to be happy and take that dare.
Create an image of who you want to be and then become that person. Realize that no one but you are in control of your destiny. You own your right to a happy and productive life. Take ownership of your possibilities and your hopes for your life.
Don’t give in to the self-wounding thoughts or behaviors that try to convince you your life is filled with too many roadblocks. The truth is, every single human ever born, has had their fair share of roadblocks. There is nothing unique about fighting an uphill battle, but there is something unique about you. Find that unique gem that makes you stand out from the crowd in whatever way that may be. Then polish that gem until it is radiant.
When all is said and done, rejoice in your world and know, really know, that a life enriched with good things, and a life well lived, is within your reach. Grab it.