Over the past decade, multiple awareness groups and campaigns have dramatically increased the public’s general knowledge about autism spectrum disorder. There have been changes made to the diagnostic criteria to more accurately identify the signs of autism. As a result, more children are being diagnosed with autism today compared to ten years ago. While there has been some public fear and panic about an “autism epidemic,” autism diagnoses are on the rise simply because autism awareness has made it easier for people to recognize early signs.
So, What is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a type of genetic condition that usually causes individuals to have repetitive behaviors and difficulty communicating and interacting with others. The autism spectrum covers a broad range of severity and symptoms, and not all people with autism will have significant impairments. Some people with autism may only have mild symptoms, whereas others may have severe difficulty with communicating, learning, and processing stimuli.
In some cases, signs of autism may be recognizable in infancy, and medical professionals can accurately diagnose autism in children at just 2 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling both regular developmental screenings throughout childhood, as well as specific autism screenings when your child is 9, 18, and 30 months old.
Signs of Autism in Infants
Autism can cause some developmental delays in infants, so it Is important for parents to notice if their baby isn’t reaching certain milestones. For example, it is common for 12-month-old babies to laugh, make different facial expressions, and babble. It can be a cause for concern if your child turns a year old and hasn’t been displaying any of these behaviors. Recognizing signs of autism in infants doesn’t involve actively looking for symptoms, but rather noticing a lack of normal behaviors such as:
Signs of Autism in Toddlers
Autism can cause a number of social, behavioral, and communication differences by the time your child reaches 3 years of age. Around this time, signs of autism can become more apparent when your child is around other kids their age, as they may not respond to other children at all, or they might have trouble noticing facial expressions. Social and communication differences in children with autism can include:
Children with autism may have some noticeable behaviors by the time they are toddlers. These behaviors tend to be repetitive or obsessive, which can be difficult for parents to understand. Physical manifestations of autism, especially in young children, are typically ways for them to manage anxiety, block out unliked stimuli, or simply to pass the time. Some examples of these behaviors may include:
What to Do If You’re Concerned
If you think your infant or child may be on the autism spectrum, you should schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician for an autism screening as soon as possible. When it comes to your child’s health, you shouldn’t take the advice to just “wait and see” if the signs improve or disappear. Visiting your child’s doctor will allow them to give their professional diagnosis, as well as recommend early intervention programs for your child.
Early intervention has been extremely successful for children by helping them develop social skills and learn how to manage challenging symptoms. If you believe your child needs more assistance with communication, Oakville Wellness Center offers other resources, as well as qualified speech-language pathologists who can help your child become more comfortable with social interactions.
It is normal to feel worried about your young child and what their future holds, but it should be reassuring to know that autism is becoming widely understood and accepted across the country. People with autism today have more opportunities to speak out about their experiences, find employment, and have better support in their education. With early intervention and support from you, your child should expect a bright future.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
Awareness and understanding of autism have been steadily improving over the past several years. Groups such as the Organization for Autism Research coordinate events to educate people of all ages about autism and use donations to continue research about autism. This organization also offers resources such as scholarships and employment opportunities for adults with autism and gives self-advocates a platform to speak about their experiences.
Although organizations like these do a great job of educating people about autism, there is still a lot of work to be done. Research must continue before we can fully understand autism, but even with the information already available, many people still have misconceptions and questions about it.
1. What is Autism Anyway?
The Centers for Disease Control refers to autism, or autism spectrum disorder, as “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” The autism spectrum includes a wide range of various symptoms, but people on the autism spectrum typically tend to think, communicate, learn, and behave differently than others.
Autism was first recognized in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner when he reported on eleven children who all showed similar symptoms of being uninterested in people, but rather highly interested in their environment. There is no single known cause for autism, but research done by various scientists today have proven that it’s a genetically based condition.
2. Symptoms of Autism: They Vary
People need to understand that autism is on a spectrum, and not every person with autism will have the same symptoms. People with mild autism, which used to be referred to as Asperger’s syndrome, may go undiagnosed for years, whereas others on the autism spectrum may be nonverbal or have significant cognitive impairment. While these are some common signs, this is by no means a comprehensive list or representative of everyone on the spectrum.
Common Symptoms in Infants and Young Children
Common Symptoms in Adolescents and Teenagers
3. Mental Illness Goes Hand-in-Hand with Autism.
It’s fairly common that those who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum often deal with other challenges or mental illness. Symptoms of autism such as feeling uncomfortable in new places or interacting with others may cause anxiety disorders. Sometimes when people with autism notice how they’re different from others around them and feel unable to communicate, they can feel isolated and depressed. Along with anxiety and depression, other challenges people with autism might encounter include eating disorders, aggressive behavior, insomnia, or other difficulties with sleeping.
4. Many Myths Still Surround Autism.
While the general public knows more about autism than they did ten years ago, there are still misconceptions that people believe. A few myths about autism include:
5. Parental Support is Just As Important As Professional Support.
Noticing early signs of autism is extremely beneficial for both you and your child. If you recognize any symptoms of autistic behavior in your infant or toddler, it’s recommended to seek a professional diagnosis. Children can be diagnosed accurately at just 18 months of age, and this early intervention can be the key in helping children develop communication skills and manage stressors.
However, while professional guidance is important, you must never underestimate the importance of supporting your child and helping him to better understand his symptoms. The most important thing for parents to remember is to be open-minded to how their child communicates. Listen to phrases your child may repeat, or focus on nonverbal cues, and then communicate in their preferred way. This can lessen confusion and misunderstanding, and can bring you and your child closer together.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism and you’re unsure of where to turn, Oakville Wellness Center has several resources available. If your child has delayed speech or trouble communicating, it can be helpful to contact a speech-language pathologist.
If your child is experiencing a major life change, such as entering school, or you fear they might be struggling with an underlying mental illness, there are resources to help your child.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen
In the article 8 Habits of Actively Vulnerable People, author Lindsay Holmes, says that unlike vulnerability “as a result of circumstances out of one’s control,” emotional vulnerability “is an exercise in openness which can be truly empowering.”
Emotional vulnerability can help you feel more satisfied with life, it can improve and deepen relationships, and it can even further your career. Why then, do many people find it challenging to make themselves emotionally vulnerable? Quite simply, it’s fear of rejection. Most of us are acutely aware that, once a thought or emotion is put forth, it’s impossible to retract. And revealing our deepest feelings in such a way can be quite intimidating.
Yet, emotional vulnerability offers tremendous benefits, both personally and interpersonally. Let’s take a look at some of the most important reasons why you should work towards allowing yourself to be emotionally vulnerable more often.
Why You Should Share More With Others
To clarify, sharing thoughts and feelings does not mean you must “come clean” to everyone. Emotional vulnerability should occur first and foremost on an intimate and familiar level. Think about who your closest to--do you share all your thoughts and concerns to your spouse, for instance? If not, then why?
Sometimes we struggle with letting guards down in our closest relationships. Live Bold and Bloom (a lifestyle publication), states, “When you are able to show yourself fully to another person, you experience the joy of being fully yourself”. Additionally, “Vulnerability fosters trust,” then article goes on, “As you reveal yourself to another person, and they treat you with respect, love, and dignity, your trust in that person expands.”
If you end up sharing sensitive information with your significant other and he or she judges or doesn’t listen, it is probably a sign that you need to work to improve your relationship, as there may be a sense of disconnect or mistrust hindering true closeness.
Build Relationships through Emotional Vulnerability
Those who live authentically and openly, positively impact others. Sharing your true self with others can make you more appealing and interesting; Plus, people will feel more comfortable around you, and may share their own concerns. Holding on to anxiety, anger or guilt and/or simple ideas and concerns, due to fear of rejection or confrontation, only hurts us in the end.
Author, Mark Mason, says, “Vulnerability is the path of true human connection and becoming a truly attractive person”. Psychologist Robert Glover also states, “Humans are attracted to each other’s rough edges.” Glover speaks the truth; no one can truly enjoy perfection and life without hurts and scars, because it doesn’t exist, so embrace life, and embrace yourself. Allow yourself to act and speak naturally and honestly.
A recent piece of research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people view themselves and others differently when they are vulnerable. Specifically, they found that people imagined themselves being vulnerable they saw it more negatively than when they imagined someone else being vulnerable. This is likely one of the reasons why people find it so difficult to be vulnerable, but respond so favourably when others are vulnerable.
Identify Your Own Avoidance Tactics
You must identify your avoidance tactics. Many people try to ignore or avoid their feelings in order to prevent shame, guilt and pain from surfacing. However, burying problems only creates more mental and physical problems. Choose to share feelings with a close friend, family member or a professional so that you can make sense of your troubled thoughts. If you feel a certain way about a friend, family member or another person, you should also not hold it inside. Though you may not want to hurt the person, it’s doing more harm by failing to address the issue and bring forth possible solutions.
Get Comfortable With the Uncomfortable
Most successes in life come from taking risks. Paul Coleman, a psychologist in Wappingers Falls, New York, and author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces, says, ““Vulnerability is ultimately a willingness to take a risk” and “playing it safe will never be fulfilling”. Again, this doesn’t mean you should talk to an audience about your most personal thoughts and feelings; instead, begin with small steps.
If you have stirred up emotions about your boyfriend or girlfriend, let them know. (In fact, the same applies for family, friends, roommates, coworkers, etc.) You can choose emotional vulnerability in two situations: when you simply want to be heard, and when you need to address and communicate an issue. Regardless of the scenario, the old saying “The truth will set you free,” usually turns out to be incredibly accurate.
In Conclusion: Be Kind To Yourself
Mistakes happen--if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not living! If you share with a person that responds negatively, let them go and move on--know your value and worth. Confine in friends that feel okay with sharing their own emotions, and take turns listening to one another. By sharing the same level of issues and personal feelings, you will instantly feel more connected and in tune with reality.
As PsychologyToday points out, “We all need to realize that a sense of common humanity is the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and no one is without their weaknesses”. We must be kind to ourselves like we would with others who need help, love and understanding. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing to live by fear or love--yes, we need both at times, but which one outweighs the other in your own life? By progressing towards love and compassion, you’ll be more willing to be emotionally vulnerable; at large, this creates deeper, and more meaningful human connection.
For more information on how to cope with specific psychological conditions, visit Dr. Syras Derksen.
While providing support for friends and loved ones dealing with traumatic experiences or mental illnesses is one of the most important ways that you can help them cope with difficult situations and distress, it can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Only 60% of people with mental health issues receive mental health care, so family members and caregivers often provide the most support for these individuals. Mental health issues, trauma, addiction, and other struggles impact more people than just the person who is dealing with these issues. They influence friends, family, colleagues, and other people in their community. Helping others cope with their mental health problems and other issues can be incredibly stressful, and if not properly managed, this stress can lead to the “helper” developing problems of his own.
It is vital for caregivers, friends, and family members who are helping others through situations and issues that cause distress to practice self-care and healthy stress management. While self-care looks different for everyone, one of the best ways that anyone can make sure they are taking care of themselves when they are helping others is to visit a mental health professional.
Many people wrestle with the idea of seeking help or taking time for themselves when they are helping their friends and family members because they believe that the other individual has a more immediate or severe need. Often times, these helpers will say they will get help managing their stress after they get their loved one the help they need first. While this idea is honorable, it is not effective, and it can actually be detrimental for both the helper and the person being helped.
If you have ever flown on an airplane, you are familiar with the safety demonstrations that encourage you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others in case of emergency. This instruction is stated because if someone loses consciousness trying to assist someone else, then neither person will be safe. This same idea applies to those people who try to provide care and support for their partner, friend, or family member without taking care of themselves first. If you are suffering yourself, then you will not be able to give adequate assistance to your loved one, which means that you will both struggle. When you are helping someone who is dealing with a severe problem, practice self-awareness and set aside time to seek help for yourself if you are exhibiting signs of distress.
Signs A Helper Might be in Distress
There are several signs that might indicate that a helper is in distress. Here are some of the most common indicators:
If you notice that you are experiencing increased levels of anxiety, your caregiving situation might be causing you distress. Symptoms of anxiety include constant or overwhelming fear and worry, sleep issues, shortness of breath, and panic. Severe anxiety can get in the way of your daily life and prevent you from helping others effectively, so it is important for you to look for these symptoms and get help if needed.
Irritability and Anger
If you find yourself more susceptible to anger, outbursts or general irritation, you may be struggling to manage high levels of stress and anxiety. Keep track of your mood and make note of any drastic changes regarding anger or irritation.
Fixating on the Problem
If supporting your loved one through a challenging time begins to preoccupy all of your thoughts, it is time for you to step back and consider seeking some help. Do not allow yourself to fixate on the situation or the problem your loved one is facing. If you start to focus on their problem instead of helping them as a person, you might be feeling distress. Address these concerns before you become resentful or unable to provide further support.
Putting Others Needs Before Your Own
While being selfless is an honorable trait, the needs of others should not come before your own wellbeing. If the time and energy you spend caring for someone is negatively influencing your mental, physical, or emotional health, you need to take a break so that you can take care of yourself. Find a therapist or support group that will help you cope with this stressful period in your life so that you can be better equipped to help others around you.
For more information on how to cope with specific psychological conditions, visit Dr. Syras Derksen.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2029, the last of the Baby Boomer Generation will have reached age 65. This means that in a mere 11 years, 20% of the United States population will have reached the retirement age --and these statistic are only accounting for the U.S.! Let’s face it, our population is aging and we need to be ready for the challenges that are to come. As George R. R. Martin once said, “Knowledge is a weapon arm yourself well for battle.” The more we learn about potential mental health issues now, the better prepared we will be in the future.
Statistics show that 20% of older adults and 37% of adults living in nursing homes suffer from depression. If that isn’t bad enough, in this age group the symptoms are often overlooked. You may be wondering how symptoms of such a serious disease could go unnoticed. Unfortunately they are often attributed to other events that will inevitably occur when a person reaches this age bracket i.e. loss of a loved ones and coping with bodily changes. If you are currently entering senescence, remember that you are not alone. In fact, you belong to a fairly large world demographic. One of the best things you can do to prevent depression is create bonds with those who are dealing with the same issues. Building a good support system will do wonders for your mental health and overall outlook on life. Keeping friends and family close will remind you of all the good in the world.
One study said that at 20% older Americans have the highest suicide rate among any age group. Remember that suicide is never the answer. If you develop depression that leads to suicidal thoughts, please visit your doctor immediately. Additionally, you should try to find a hobby that brings you joy. Whether it’s painting, playing and instrument, or even writing blog articles, find your passion. When you become passionate about a specific endeavor, it can very quickly become an excellent reason to get up in the morning.
After looking at the statistics, it is apparent that our society is in great need of efficient treatments for older patients dealing with substance abuse. An estimated 17% of older adults misuse and abuse alcohol and medications. This estimate doesn’t even include the number of seniors who are at risk for this type of behavior. We here at Oakville encourage you to see your physician regularly. Only a licensed professional can tell you provide you with the help and treatment necessary to stay healthy, clear headed, and away from potentially harmful substances. Remember, as you get older, you will much likely need to be placed on various medications. Always take them as directed. Failure to do so can lead down a dark path that does not have a happy ending for you or your family.
Anxiety is another mental health problem that tends to be overlooked. Because this disorder can present itself with a multitude of different symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose. According to a study on mental health issues in the elderly, 9% of those age 95 and above, who do not experience dementia, have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Seniors should make themselves aware of these statistics so that they can try to prevent adding themselves to these ranks. Although anxiety can be difficult to prevent, there are a few methods that seniors can do to keep this disorder at bay. For example, seniors should keep their lives as stress free as possible. By eliminating stress, seniors will be more likely to stay relaxed and prevent anxiety from clouding their judgement.
Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
The last of these four disorders is by far the most difficult to deal with. Alzheimer's Disease currently affects 12 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to increase to more than 22 million people by 2025. The number of people dealing with this terrible disease is rapidly increasing and causing heartbreak to many families around the globe. If you are unaware Alzheimer's Disease is the disorder that causes dementia, otherwise known as the irreversible deterioration of intellectual ability. Although scientists have developed means of detecting it early, there is still no known cure for this disease. As a senior, you must visit your physician often! Early diagnosis of this disease is of the utmost importance. When detected early, your doctors can drastically slow the course of this disease, giving you more years to spend with the ones you love.
Guarding yourself against mental health disorders is vital to living a long, productive life.
Trying to navigate a relationship with a narcissist can be a difficult feat. While narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is rare, affecting less than 1% of the general population, most people demonstrate narcissistic tendencies over time.
Narcissism is marked by many traits including a lack of empathy, grandiose thoughts and behaviors, entitlement, and a strong need for validation. These traits make healthy communication and negotiation a challenge, which can lead to frustration and eventually ruin relationships. One of the major characteristics of a narcissistic negotiator is the tendency for them to overestimate the power of their position and underestimate the power of yours. This can lead to continued misunderstanding and escalation in conflict.
Admiration Vs. Rivalry
Both admiration and rivalry can play a part in how narcissists interact. Both of these traits contribute to the maintenance of a grandiose self-image. It has been shown that narcissistic traits are great for building relationships in the short-term, but are disastrous in the long-term.
A research project in 2017 found was conducted to look at the admiration behaviour vs. rivalry behaviour in narcissists. This admiration was defined as the promotion of positivity in the person's self-view. Rivalry was the tendency to protect their self-image by being negative towards others. They found that it was tendency towards needing admiration that was what helped narcissists build relationships in the short-term. However, it was the tendency towards rivalry that cause relationships to break-apart over the long-term.
It is likely that this dynamic also occurs in negotiating. In the short-term relationships can flourish, but it would be expected that negotiations would also elicit strong rivalry tendencies that could produce negative acrimonious interactions. This fluctuation between these two sides could also be disorienting for the participants and observers.
What Should You Do?
When dealing with someone who tends to show narcissistic characteristics, it is important to make sure you are able to protect your self-esteem and your feelings. If you have a relationship with someone with NPD or with someone who often shows narcissistic traits, here are a few communication tips to keep in mind:
While you can neither control nor change the actions and thought patterns of someone who behaves narcissistically, remember that you are in control of your own actions and feelings. If you feel a conversation is leading to an unproductive argument or spiraling out of control, take a step back and think about how you can stay in control of the situation. Do your best to prevent frustration on your end from negatively influencing the way you communicate with the other person. Avoid building a negative case against them in your mind or lashing out in anger by taking control of your own thoughts and actions.
Avoid Unhealthy Conversation
You might be tempted to feel negatively about yourself when communicating with a narcissist. A narcissist might display little to no empathy for your feelings or try to blame you for a conflict. While it is frustrating to solve an issue with someone who refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions, it is important for you to remember the big picture: you are in charge of your feelings, and you do not have to give this person power over your sense of self.
When negotiating with a narcissist begins to seem one-sided or the other person stops listening and is no longer interested in a healthy dialogue, you can stop the discussion. Communicate your feelings with the other person and express that you would prefer to continue the discussion at a later time when he or she is ready to listen to and respect your feelings. Even though a narcissist might feel entitled to your time, energy, and praise, they are just one person, and you do not have to give them every single thing they want just because they demand it from you. You do not have to sacrifice your self-esteem and energy to communicate with a narcissist.
Become Aware of Narcissistic Tendencies
As you spend time with a person with NPD or narcissistic tendencies, be sure to make note of the character traits they exhibit that might lead to unhealthy communication between the two of you. By becoming aware of these traits, you know when to stop a potentially unproductive conversation or disagreement. This will also give you a starting place for learning how to develop strategies to deal with these behaviors effectively. If you cannot avoid dealing with a narcissist on a regular basis, you should practice self-care by preparing yourself to handle the different character strengths that they might misuse.
Separate the Behavior from the Person
A trademark characteristic of narcissists is the need to be validated. Effective communication will not happen if you label the other individual based on their actions. When you become aware of their narcissistic behaviors and you want to communicate your feelings, you need to make sure you separate these behaviors from the person. Use “I” statements to express your feelings instead of placing blame that might make them feel attacked or invalidated. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re selfish, and you only care about yourself” you could say, “I do not feel cared for when you do this.” Doing this provides the space for the other person to listen and change, and it will help them pinpoint an area where they need to improve.
For helpful strategies that can make it easier for you to identify narcissistic behaviors that you demonstrate or that are exhibited by somebody close to you, visit www.oakvillewellnesscenter.com.
Leahy, R. (2014). Impediments and strategies in negotiating: A cognitive therapy model. Handbook of International Negotiating.
Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T. M., Dufner, M., et al. (2017). Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 280-306.