Chantelle is intelligent and very creative. It is difficult to have a proper conversation with her because she struggles to take in information orally. She lives a regimented life and struggles to change her schedule for the day. She has fixed plans for the future.
Her key autistic difficulties are:
- Slow processing speed
- An extremely strong preference for rote learning.
These two aspects taken together explain all her difficulties including difficulties with communication, difficulties with change, and rigid thinking. In fact, her slow processing speed probably explains why she prefers to rote learn everything: it became her coping strategy to compensate for her slow processing speed.
Because of her slow processing speed and preference for rote learning, Chantelle has very poor problem solving skills. She is intelligent but would perform very badly on an intelligence test.
We have found no evidence that Chantelle has any difficulties with sensory issues. She does not like busy trains, however this is not because of sensory issues, but because of difficulties with social interaction. Chantelle has a strict rule to not talk to strangers. The busier the train, the more likely it is that someone will attempt to speak to her. She does not feel safe when surrounded by people she does not know.
There are signs that Chantelle does have some difficulties with fine motor movements. We tried to get her to learn to touch type. While she did learn this, it took her a long time and she remained slow and error prone.
While Chantelle is in touch with her own emotions, she has no emotional intelligence. She has simply rote learned how people react and why. She applies this to everyone without exception.
We asked Chantelle to buy a subscription to BrainHQ. The results from this, demonstrate that Chantelle’s brain processing speed is much lower than average: - in the bottom 17th percentile. Brain speed is measured by recognising what is flashed up on the screen. This has a profound impact on Chantelle’s ability to deal with everyday life.
A key difficulty as a result of this is communication. Chantelle does not take in verbal information at all well. It is not possible to have a proper conversation with her. While she will answer direct questions, she is unable to take in what you tell her. Instead she picks up on key words, or a pattern of key words and then comes out with what appears to be a random statement.
As Chantelle likes interacting with people, this strategy helps her engage in social chit chat to an extent. However, people realise quite quickly that she isn’t really engaging with them and her attempts at making friends are very short lived because of this.
Chantelle has a very good imagination and likes writing stories. She also likes drawing. Her degree is in graphic design and she has demonstrated that she can be very creative in putting words and pictures together in ways that demonstrate imagination and originality.
Chantelle’s reasoning skills are underdeveloped because of her reliance on rote learning and rules. However, the indications are that these can be developed. It appears that using her brain to reason instead of rote learning has never occurred to her.
Chantelle’s preferred learning style by far is rote learning. She attempts to rote learn everything. She lives via rules and routines. Her life is very regimented. This means that she gets upset when people do not follow rules such as not speaking in the library.
Chantelle’s father set up a budget for her which she follows via an app on her phone. While she is well able to do this, she is not able to devise a budget herself. If the money she has coming in changes, she needs help to create a new budget.
This also means that once Chantelle has an idea in her head, it is generally difficult to change it. Because of her processing issues and difficulty taking in information verbally, Chantelle learns best by doing something under supervision using an iterative try and correct approach until she can do it. It helps if many varied exercises are provided for her.
Chantelle tends to talk too much. She tends to talk about whatever is bothering her repeatedly. She is weak at attending to what other people are saying.
This causes problems when trying to explain something to Chantelle. She tends to fixate on the particular example instead of attending to what the example is illustrating. This is why it takes many examples and varied exercises to get the point across.
Her lack of inhibition also causes problems when Chantelle has to follow a set of instructions. She tends to jump in and do something without taking the time to make sure she has fully understood the instructions and is following them precisely. As a result, she often gets things wrong.
Chantelle is very poor at problem solving. She has no idea where to start. Chantelle’s reasoning skills have never been developed because she has relied on rote learning.
Planning and execution
Chantelle can follow a process that has been set up for her once she has learnt the steps. So she can cook, and manage the routine essentials of everyday life. She can stick to a budget that someone else has set up. However, if something happens to disrupt her routines or ways of doing things, she can struggle badly. She needs help to cope when an appliance breaks down and needs fixing or replacing. This is made more complicated by the fact that she is extremely reluctant to let people she does not know into her flat.
Chantelle is able to plan her day and follow that plan, but she struggles if something does not work out as expected. She is very punctual.
Chantelle is very resistant when you try to change her plan. She is unable to think flexibly enough in real time to be able to see how other aspects of her schedule can be changed to accommodate a change. If you work it out for her and explain how it works, then she does come round to the idea. However, this takes quite a bit of time to do and will only work if Chantelle trusts you.
Chantelle appears organised, but her organising skills are actually poor. She only appears organised because she relies on routine, rote learning, and rigidly adhering to a schedule. Her life is quite regimented.
Chantelle needs help to be able to organise her finances. She keeps a folder of plastic wallets for important documents. Any other document is quickly thrown away. Documents that she needs to keep temporarily such as appointment times are likely to be scrunched up and put in her bag.
Section A: Social Communication and Social Interaction
Chantelle clearly has difficulties with social communication and social interaction. Her slow processing and reliance on rote learning to get by results in stilted and strange social interaction. She struggles to understand what people are saying and thus simply comes out with random statements. She has a tendency to hog the conversation and speak about her own life, her own worries and concerns while showing very little interest in the concerns of others.
Chantelle demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the world around her. She relies on rules. She checks with her family before she does anything. This actually reduces her vulnerability to being exploited because she will only do something with the approval of a trusted person. Although she wants a job, a partner, a circle of friends, her world really revolves pretty much exclusively around her own everyday life.
Because of her slow processing speed and difficulty taking in information orally, it is completely unrealistic to expect Chantelle to be able to interpret facial expression and body language during a conversation. This means that she is unable to pick up on subtle signals that people are not interested in her, or that they are no longer interested. This also applies to electronic means of communication. Chantelle has no idea how often to text someone, or how to tell when the person is losing interest.
As a result, she finds it virtually impossible to make and to keep friends. Any attempts are short lived as people lose interest in her and stop responding. This leaves Chantelle feeling hurt and confused because she does not understand what went wrong. Her social contact is with her family, although she has a great need for social interaction.
Section B: Restricted, Repetitive, Patterns of Behaviour, Interests, or Activities.
For this section, you have to meet two out of four criteria. Chantelle easily meets the criterion regarding difficulty with change and inflexible adherence to routines.
As we saw above, Chantelle struggles with changes in her planned schedule because she is unable to adjust the other parts of her schedule in order to accommodate.
Chantelle is very rigid in her thinking because she lives by rules and rote learning. She has a plan for her life: 1) get a job. 2) get friends, 3) get a partner. In her thinking, she cannot get friends until she has a job because she needs to be able to tell people what she does and she does not want to tell people she is unemployed. She has no interest in trying to make friends. Add to this, her rule to not speak to strangers and it is clear that she has very limited opportunity to come into appropriate contact with people.
It is very difficult to persuade Chantelle to be more flexible in her thinking. To perhaps consider doing things more flexibly and less rigidly. Perhaps it might be a good idea if she were to at least practice making friends before she gets a job.
Chantelle has a very small range of interests. She has very few interests and a very narrow life. She likes drawing, writing stories, watching films, and going to the gym and that is about it. It is doubtful how much she actually understands of the films she watches because her stories demonstrate no understanding of the adult world and are very simplistic in their characters and relationships between characters.
Chantelle is not able to handle a conversation that deals with many different topics. In fact she does not get much further than herself and her own very narrow life.
When she is anxious, Chantelle repeats the same two or three sentences over and over again. This is a clear sign she is anxious and the topic is an indication regarding what is bothering her.