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Monday, 02 Jul 2018

The psychological challenges for Niall on Love Island with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Dr Becky Spelman

Niall on Love IslandBeing in a house like love Island with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) would be extremely challenging for someone. Firstly people often label the behaviours of someone with ASD as weird and people can misunderstand them and react negatively toward them as a result of this.

Niall on Love Island sometimes came up with with topics of conversation which may have appeared random at times such as asking Georgia if she liked chicken dippers right in the middle of discussing another topic. Georgia being the nice girl that she is just went with the conversation and didn’t show any sign of judging Niall negatively for going off topic.

The ASD Mind works differently to a non-autistic mind but that’s not to say that the way they think is wrong, it’s often a case that neurotypical individuals are less logical than someone with ASD, for example to say “I am fine” when someone asks “how you are” if you are not so fine doesn’t make that much sense but it’s a response that a neurotypical individual will often give. ASD people may see anyone who communicates in this not so logical way as odd as it’s not truthful, it’s just unfortunately that people with an ASD mind are a minority meaning there are less people in the world who will understand the way they think.

Niall has learned excellent social skills despite his condition and this is most likely as the result of support from his family over the course of his lifetime, however the fact that his condition is so invisible means that people are not aware of the challenges he faces and therefore can’t offer him extra consideration when he may need it, it was impossible for the other contestants in the house to know he had a deficit. Niall was very good at speaking to people about their thoughts and feelings, for instance he asked Adam “where is your head at” encouraging him to speak about his thoughts and feelings, this is a very advanced interpersonal communication for someone with ASD, meaning Niall is very mild on the spectrum and very well adapted. The fact that he can communicate in this way means that he can build friendships with others easily.

People with ASD will often be highly intelligent and have many talents as a result of their mind works, often where people have deficients in whatever way they have great strength which seems to be compensate for this.

Unfortunately people with ASD are particularly vulnerable to experiencing mental health difficulties and certain environments or situations can be very challenging for them, physical contact can be difficult or uncomfortable, making eye contact with others and reading facial expressions usually doesn’t come naturally and needs to be learned in addition to several other social skills. Topics of particular interest can be obsessive meaning that the person’s desire to speak about topics may be limited to a small number of areas and they may want to speak about particular topics for a long period of time. Niall’s had a big passion is Harry Potter however luckily there were others in the house who shared this passion.

Niall is lucky that he was in the house with such a supportive bunch of people however there was clearly something that happened in the house where he experience great distress which was never shown. I believe that Niall when in to an emotional meltdown in the house, and felt he couldn’t cope, emotional meltdowns are common for people with ASD and it’s likely this moment would have passed in a relatively short period of time however Nial may not have had the comfort of an accommodating enough environment to help him through the difficult spell. It may have been helpful if Niall had a private room for himself where he could go to whenever he wanted to and choose to shut off any noise or overstimulation in order to help him feel more relaxed. Sensory overload is a common thing with ASD and too much noise, light, distractions, and even certain smells can be too much for people with with this disorder at times, a break from this sensory overload can be a very necessary requirement.

Well done to Niall for opening up about his condition, it shows that being different is certainly not a bad thing, Niall is an incredibly kind and loveable young man with a great mind, charisma and potential. Also well done to the producers of Love Island for adding such diversity to the house. If Niall’s condition had come to light earlier perhaps perhaps extra support could have been offered. In relation to having someone with ASD in the house there does need to be special accommodating factors offered, far more than what Niall was given but perhaps he had not disclosed his condition to the producers before entering the house.