Additional challenges

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Introduction

It is common to have more than one neurodivergent condition and there are also certain medical conditions which are known to occur more frequently with autism.

 

The correct term for these is co-morbidities or co-existing conditions. They present additional challenges for many of us and sometimes even conflict with our autistic needs. 

In addition, some of us have additional needs or different ways of communicating which can also present challenges in neurotypical society.

I will discuss some of these challenges here. 

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Other neurodivergent conditions include: ADHD, developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia), dyscalculia, dysgraphia and Tourette syndrome. Certain sensory conditions are also more common, such as Irlen syndrome, prosopagnosia, synaesthesia and alexithymia and sensory processing disorder (SPD). 

Autism + ADHD

Whilst autism and ADHD share many similarities, they are also fundamentally different. When we have them both, it can be doubly difficult to navigate everyday life.

For example, our autistic brains need predictability, routine and familiarity, whilst our ADHD brains are often looking for something shiny and new, unpredictable, stimulating and different. The autistic brain is happy to keep hyperfocusing on its current intense interest for the next 24 hours without a break, or even the next 24 years... However, the ADHD brain craves change and variety.

I am personally both autistic and have ADHD, and I certainly find the two of them in frequent battles with each other. 

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The autistic and ADHD parts of our brains may be fighting each other. One needs structure and routine and the other is easily bored and wants to try something shiny & new!

Sensory issues + physical disabilities

When autism meets physical disabilities and other health conditions it can be a complete sensory nightmare.

 

Being confined by physical restrictions, equipment or clothing causes additional sensory overloading.

 

The lights, sounds and smells of trips to clinics and hospitals can be overwhelming and constant pain or discomfort, or reduced mobility may restrict our ability to stim when we need to.

 

Then there are medications that don't agree with us, or that we are extra sensitive to (a common problem!) and restrictive diets. These are all recipes for disaster.

 

So if an autistic person has these extra challenges to deal with, they are going to need even more downtime, patience, understanding and support.

Other common co-morbidities

In addition, the following health conditions seem to show up more often with autism:

 

Sleep disorders, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD, polycystic ovary syndrome (POS), hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) and gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  
 

There is more information about some of these conditions in the glossary.

Communication challenges

There are many more ways to communicate than by using speech, and autistic people have a wide and varied range of speech and communication abilities and styles. 

 

Some autistic people are unable to communicate using speech at all, but instead may communicate with sounds, touch, gestures or sign language. Some use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) such as communication boards, computers, handheld devices and tablets. 

 

For those of us are comfortable using speech, we may still find that it becomes more difficult in times of stress, tiredness, frustration, overwhelm or illness, and at these times we may become non-speaking, needing someone or something to communicate for us.  

I hope to add more information here in the future, written by autistic people with more experience in this area.

If you would like to read about the specific social communication differences that autistic people have, please go to this page.