Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people.
The word ‘spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties that people on the autism spectrum may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning challenges and require continued specialist support.
The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.
People on the autism spectrum may also have:
• unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
• sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
• intellectual impairment or learning difficulties
Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
Individuals on the autism spectrum vary enormously from each other but they all share the two ‘core’ features of autism:
– persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, they may find it hard to begin or carry on a conversation, they may not understand social rules such as how far to stand from somebody else, or they may find it difficult to make friends.
– Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. For example, they may develop an overwhelming interest in something, they may follow inflexible routines or rituals, they may make repetitive body movements, or they may be hypersensitive to certain sounds.
However many people on the autism spectrum also have significant strengths. These may include a good eye for detail, a high level of accuracy and reliability, an excellent memory for facts and figures, and the ability to thrive in a structured, well-organised work environment. Some also have considerable creative talent. Because of this, some autistic individuals do not consider autism to be a disability but a neurological difference.