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Is Autism A Disability? What To Know

June 10, 2024
Written By: Hero Journey Club

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, affects everyone differently. Many people with ASD don’t feel that the term “disabled” applies to them. Others may need extra support in coping with their diagnosis and symptoms. 

ASD encompasses a wide array of people and experiences. Hero Journey Club can provide encouragement to people across a diverse spectrum.

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that causes changes in the way the brain perceives some situations or stimuli. 

These changes can be mild or significant depending on someone’s unique pathways. There is no sole way to experience autism. Here are some of the common symptoms of ASD:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Repetitive behaviors, sometimes called self-stimulating or stimming
  • Strict adherence to routines
  • Speech and language difficulties 
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Difficulty understanding other people's feelings 
  • Intense interests in specific topics, sometimes called special interests
  • Challenges with non-verbal communication 
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • Learning differences

Some people will only experience a few of these differences, while others may experience all of them. 

Is Autism Considered a Disability?

Autism is classified as a neurological developmental disability for official medical and labor purposes. This classification is designed to protect people with autism. 

Some people with autism benefit from special modifications to do their jobs, and a disability classification holds employers responsible for providing modifications or accommodations. Disability classification also protects people with autism from discrimination in many areas of their lives.

The legal definition differs from the social and functional definition of a disability. It’s best to let people with autism make their own determinations of how their autism impacts their everyday lives. 

There are many people with autism who would definitively state that they don’t consider their neurodivergence to be a disability, and they’re absolutely correct. Some people find that their autism doesn’t interfere with their ability to live a happy, healthy, productive, and independent life. 

Others with autism find that it may profoundly affect their everyday lives. Having a loved one or a helper around can make things easier to navigate.

It’s important to remember that the experience of autism is completely different for everyone. There is no “typical” case, as autism is a spectrum. If someone with autism doesn’t identify as disabled, it’s important to respect that. Their autism may not have a significant impact on their life. 

How Does ASD Impact Daily Life?

Again, autism is a spectrum. People across the spectrum are impacted by autism differently. Some people may experience minimal impact, while others may need assistance to help them navigate a more significant level of impact. Similarly, some people with autism may not experience an impact on all areas of their lives.

Social Challenges

One of the most common ways autism manifests in peoples’ lives is through social challenges. People with autism are sometimes limited in their ability to read social cues like body language, tone of voice, and sarcasm. 

Communication Difficulties

Autism can cause communication difficulties, especially in someone’s ability to read nonverbal cues, body language, or intonation. Some people with autism love sarcastic or ironic humor and use it daily, while others with autism may have trouble detecting sarcasm or irony in communication.

Sensory Overload

Autism impacts the pathways the brain uses to process stimulation, often amplifying the response. Some people with autism may find that bright lights, loud noises, and chaotic environments can be very overwhelming and overstimulating

Difficulty With Changes

Many people find a routine to be comfortable, and people with autism are no different. Those who live with autism may find that having a routine is essential to their ability to thrive, and change can be difficult to handle.

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety and stress can stem from many things. In the case of autism, social situations, overstimulation, and facing new situations can cause anxiety and stress.

Difficulty Understanding Emotions

Emotions create a lot of noise in our minds. Sifting through that noise can help us identify the root cause of our emotions, whether that cause is positive or negative. People with autism sometimes feel overstimulated by this internal noise, making it difficult to understand or interpret strong emotions.

Learning Challenges

Everyone learns at their own pace and processes information in slightly different ways. Some people affected by autism may experience learning challenges due to the unique way their brains process new information.

Employment Challenges

Many people with autism have fulfilling careers, but due to the differing impact of autism, some people with autism find traditional employment to be challenging. 

Self-Care Skills

Many people would benefit from practicing better self-care, and people with autism are no different. Some people with autism have a hard time understanding the purpose of self-care tasks, which is why they may not adhere to a regular self-care routine.

Coexisting Conditions

People with autism can also simultaneously live with conditions like depression, clinical anxiety, or bipolar disorder. However, this isn’t always the case.

What Are Some Ways to Manage the Symptoms of ASD?

There is no way to “cure” autism. There are a number of supports that can help people with ASD relax a little more and make their daily lives easier. 

Therapy and Counseling

Talk therapy is an invaluable tool for navigating complicated feelings. People with difficulty expressing or managing their emotions often find that therapy and counseling empower them to speak their minds while finding an inner sense of calmness.

Prescription Medication

There is no prescription medication specifically for autism, but there are some medications that can help to restore a proper balance of chemicals within the brain. It’s best to speak with your doctor about prescription medication options if you’re interested in pursuing medication therapies. 

Structured Routine

A structured routine can eliminate anxiety and uncertainty, which are often difficult to cope with. A structured routine can help neurodivergent people feel more relaxed and comfortable while maintaining productivity. 

Social Skills Training

Social skills training can work to develop better personal and professional social skills. Increased social skill levels can lead to more autonomy for people on the spectrum.

Regular Physical Activity

Physical activity is an important self-care activity that many people neglect. The majority of Americans aren’t getting enough exercise, and we’re seeing the effects on our health. People with ASD would benefit from incorporating regular physical activity into their structured routines to ensure they manage their health and promote strong motor skills.

Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory integration therapy is a unique kind of therapy used to help people on the spectrum and people who live with sensory processing issues. Over time, sensory integration therapy can help to make stimulation more manageable for people who feel overwhelmed at times. 

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are simple, short routines you can practice to calm down in the middle of a busy or stressful situation. Many people integrate mindfulness into their daily lives to support a calm mood and mental clarity.

Support Groups

Social and communication difficulties sometimes make it difficult for people with ASD to find community. Support groups exist to bridge gaps and facilitate conversation, especially around common interests. Groups like Hero Journey Club bring neurodivergent people together for empathy, support, and the meditative power of gaming. 

Skill Development

If you’re having trouble with certain skills, try isolating them and developing them one at a time. Focused therapies can help build skills individually over time through repetition.

Utilizing Technology

Some people with ASD find that technology makes it easier for them to communicate and interact with others. Since technology is so abundant, it’s often easy to utilize something as simple as a smartphone app to bridge gaps. 

How Can Hero Journey Club Support Individuals with ASD?

People with ASD, just like many other people, may find gaming to be a fun way to relieve stress, practice important life skills, and improve their communication.

Hero Journey Club uses gaming as a unifier. Our small group gaming sessions are led by mental health professionals who can help facilitate productive conversations as players learn and grow together. Note that Hero Journey Club isn’t a replacement for therapy — it’s a productive social support group for people who would benefit from an increased sense of community. 

Video games are known to support motor skill development, provide healthy stimulation, and increase social interaction among people with ASD. Hero Journey Club can provide support to individuals with ASD through clinically proven methods of nurturing well-being. Hero Journey Club provides a safe environment to practice skills learned in therapy and communicate with like-minded people who share your goals.

Embracing the Spectrum: Understanding and Supporting Autism in Everyday Life

Autism looks different for everyone on the spectrum. It’s important to respect the differences and recognize the similarities between everyone on the neurodivergent spectrum. Empathy, meeting people halfway, and prioritizing our own well-being is essential to learning, growing, and thriving. 

Some people with autism benefit from additional support — gaming-focused support groups like Hero Journey Club are designed to provide the support you may be looking for. Practice your skills and find community in a guided gaming experience with people who understand a little bit about your experience of life. 

Sign up for Hero Journey Club today to get started.


Sources:

Autism | U.S. Department of Labor

A Review of Self-Help Skills for People with Autism: A Systematic Teaching Approach, by Stephen R. Anderson, Amy L. Jablonski, Marcus L. Thomeer, and Vicki Madaus Knapp | National Library of Medicine

Beneficial Use and Potential Effectiveness of Physical Activity in Managing Autism Spectrum Disorder | Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

Recommending Video Games to Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder for Social-Skill Enhancement | Proceedings of the 28th ACM Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization