What is Autism?

Autism, commonly referred to as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, can be a lifelong and complex disability.

Individuals with Autism are typically characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, restricted and repetitive behaviours and delays in development of play skills and imaginative play.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that refers to three recognised disorders; Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (commonly referred to as PDD- NOS). There will be some changes to the diagnostic conditions referred to in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V).

While conditions for those with an ASD vary, individuals may experience difficulties in the following core areas:

  1. Social Interaction
  • Forming and maintaining friendships
  • Difficulty understanding and using non-verbal communication such as eye contact and facial expressions
  • Understanding social and emotional responsiveness
  • Little desire to share their attention and interests with others
  1. Communication
  • Delayed language
  • Impairment with initiating and maintaining conversations
  • Repetitive use of language such as reciting phrases from movies or TV shows
  • Echolalia
  • Restricted imaginative play and tendency to use literal terms or scenarios.
  1. Restricted and Repetitive Behaviour
  • Obsessive interests in objects and toys such as trains or lining up toys>
  • Repetitive body movements such as rocking, flapping, spinning or hand shaking
  • Resistance to change of routines and/or their environment

Additionally individuals with an ASD may also exhibit:

  • Sensory interests such as mouthing, sniffing or staring at moving objects
  • Sensory sensitivities cause by textures, certain noises or public places such as shopping centres.
  • Food restrictions
  • Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties (however other individuals may have average or above average intelligence)
  • Difficulties with toilet training
  • Sleeping problems

Individuals with Autism are understood to be affected for life but are capable of learning and developing when suitable supports are implemented.