What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition. Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a term used to describe a common set of characteristics related to the ability of understanding and communicating with the world. People with ASD can present their disability
in a number of ways and at very different degrees. ASD can affect people of any level of intellectual ability.

The main areas of difficulty that people with an ASD have are:

Individuals with Autism may have difficulty with verbal communication, and some may have no speech at all. There can also be difficulties with non-verbal communication including understanding
facial expressions, gestures and body language. Individuals can also take things very literally and some may have echolalia (repeat words or sentences).

Social Interaction
Difficulties with social interaction can lead to an inability to form friendships and close relationships, some may want to interact with others but not have the skill set to do so. Others
will prefer their own company and will not seek the companionship of others. This can often present as appearing aloof and indifferent or having no awareness of personal boundaries and socially acceptable behaviour.

Flexibility of Thought (Imagination)
Most individuals on the Autistic Spectrum enjoy structure and routine and find any sort of change difficult. There may be limited ability to think creatively, especially
with regards to something that an individual has not personally experienced.

Hyposensitivity—Response to a stimulus is unusually delayed or lessened in degree, can be dulled or underactive.
Hypersensitivity—Over sensitive or overactive, means that sensations can be experienced
as acute and overwhelming.
Any of a person’s senses can be affected; sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. They can also fluctuate between hyper and hypo.
Communication, Social Interaction and Flexibility of Thought are
often labelled as the ‘Triad of Impairment’. Difficulties affecting individuals with ASD are not just limited to these as many will also have other difficulties, including sensory issues.

Common Characteristics of Autism.
There are many characteristics that individuals on the Autistic Spectrum may display. Some of the more common include:

  • Non-verbal / limited speech or delayed language development
  • Poor or no eye-contact
  • Difficulty understanding social situations
  • Prefer solitary activities
  • Be resistant to change
  • Have a narrow range of interests
  • Take things literally
  • Strong sense of smell, sound, light, taste or textures
  • Use sensory stimulating (stimming) gestures, such as spinning, hand flapping etc.
  • Challenging behaviours