Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent a broad range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders affecting socialization, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behavior. Spectrum refers to the fact that these disorders affect each patient in different ways, with the degree of communication, socialization, and behavioral impairment ranging from mild to severe.
Autistic Disorder, or “classic” autism, is the most severe form. Individuals usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests; many also have an intellectual disability.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a milder form of autism. Individuals may experience social challenges and display unusual behaviors and interests, but they typically don’t experience language problems or have an intellectual disability.
If a child has symptoms of both autistic disorder and Asperger’s syndrome but doesn’t meet the specific criteria for either, ’they are diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), or ‘atypical autism’. These individuals usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder; they may only experience social and communication challenges.
There is no one identifiable, specific cause of autism. Researchers believe the cause is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. A number of genes associated with ASDs have been identified. Some children have a genetic predisposition to autism. For example, a child with a parent or sibling with an ASD is more likely to be diagnosed with an ASD. When one identical twin is affected with an ASD, the second twin has a 90% chance of the same diagnosis. Families with one child diagnosed with an ASD have a 5% chance that the second child will also be diagnosed, a risk that is greater than the rest of the population.
Since I have a daughter with PDD-NOS and saw a lot of her behavior in myself, I started to wonder whether I also have ASD. So I was tested and surprised that I also have ASD. To be exact, I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Luckily, I am at the top end of this. But after a bit of digging in my own past it all fits.
My autism shows itself in interacting with other people, more specifically, other nurses. For instance I am terrible at reading between the lines and I am also a man who works in a mostly female profession. I am often asked, ‘can you look out for my calls’ or ‘can you clean-up this or that’, and I may not undertsand that there may be several parts to that request, and typically would only complete the first one. At first I started to tell them that you have to be specific of what you want from me. Some nurses find this confronting and it can be a significant issue in communication skills on both sides.
I have had to learn to be specific and to ask others to be detailed in their requests of me.
Another example is as a nurse this is sometimes very difficult because often the patient is sending out these signals which i then don’t pick up. Collegues then say i am insensative, but in reality this is my ASD speaking.
Because I am writing this blog/article I started to google and came across a lot of the same stories. Nurses with ASD are often fired because other people/nurses don’t know how to handle other nurses with ASD.
Knowing that I have Asperger’s Syndrome I am more prepared and I tell most people at my work that I have ASD. I do this with a big smile and inform them that they have to be specific of what they want from me and what they want me to do.
While i was researching this blog I found an amazing video of how autistic people (children) see the world. You can find it in many different languages on the website of Amazing things Happens.
Here is the english version on YouTube.
Now there is even a series about an autistic doctor – The Good Doctor.
So if you have autism it doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish anything. Think of Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Daryl Hannah, Temple Grandin and even Susan Boyle.
Please let me know what your experiences are with nurses with ASD or how you as a nurse with ASD cope with daily life at work.