About Autism

"Coming Soon - What is autism: an autistic perspective"

What is Autism?

Autism is classed as a lifelong developmental disability and is typically referred to as autism, autistic spectrum or an autism spectrum condition (though clinicians will often still use disorder). The word ‘spectrum’ was used because, while all autistic individuals share key areas of difficulty, it will affect them in very different ways. Many will be able to live relatively ‘everyday’ lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support. Nowadays the belief is that it is less linear and more fluid and the level of support needed will be variable.

The key areas of difference needed to be given a diagnosis of autism are:

Differences in social communication and interaction

– autistic individuals may be able to speak fluently or some may be unable to speak at all. There may also be difficulties understanding gestures, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, making it difficult to judge or understand the reactions of those they are talking to. They may also take others comments literally and so misunderstand jokes, metaphors or colloquialisms.

– some autistic individuals may find chatting or small talk difficult and therefore struggle in some social situations. Some may appear uninterested in others and find it very difficult to develop friendships and relate to others, while others may enjoy or want to develop social contacts, but find mixing very difficult.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities including sensory difficulties:

– There may be difficulties preparing for change and planning for the future, coping in new or unfamiliar situations which may result in the person becoming stressed. Often due to unsuitable environments.

It can be hard to create awareness of autism as autistic individuals do not ‘look’ disabled: parents of autistic children often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood.


What causes autism?

Research suggests that a combination of factors – genetic and environmental – may account for differences in brain development.  Autism is not caused by a person’s upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual.  It is lifelong, but by no means a life sentence.

There’s no specific test for autism. Diagnosis is based on observation of behaviours.

'Treatment' of autism

There is no cure or medical treatment for autism. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Much support can be put in place to maximise a child’s potential and this is vital to a fulfilling life. Appropriate education, speech/language and occupational therapy are all important.