What is Autism?

Autism affects how a person communicates and relates to other people, a life-long disability related to the brain’s development. People with autism often struggle to make sense of the world around them that most other people take for granted.Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autistic Spectrum Disorder are all names for what is essentially a developmental disorder.

A person with Autism will display the following signs, often referred to as a ‘triad of impairment’:

  • Poor social skills
  • Poor imagination
  • Affected communication

Autism often affects people’s sensitivities, such as additional sensitivities to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. Autism affects each person differently. For example, some may appear to be in a world of their own whilst others may be forward but act inappropriately. Some may display challenging behaviour often related to environmental factors.

Diagnosis of Autism is given on a ‘spectrum’, as the condition varies greatly from person to person, affecting different people in different ways. Autism affects each person differently. For example, some may appear to be in a world of their own whilst others may be forward but act inappropriately. Some may display challenging behaviour often related to environmental factors.

Some people on the Autism Spectrum can live relatively independently whereas others may have further complexities that require additional support throughout their lives. An autistic child may also have other problems such as learning difficulties, dyspraxia, languages problems and sensory needs. These children will have Autism all their life, there is no cure, but with support they can learn coping strategies and life skills.

This makes understanding Autism very difficult as each child is so different.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

 

Autism Explained

There is a wide range of information available online about Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We have compiled a list of just some resources that you may find useful.

Wikipedia offers a number of interesting pages on most subjects and a selection of Autism related pages are linked below:

 

Autism : The Myths Vs. The Facts

Myth

Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is a rare condition.

Fact

Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is no longer a rare condition and is thought to affect about 588,000 people in the UK today. Latest research by Simon Baron-Cohen suggests 1:58!

 

Myth

All people with autism have an extraordinary ability like the Dustin Hoffman character in the film Rainman.

Fact

People with autism who have an extraordinary talent are referred to as ‘autistic savants’. Savants are rare: Between 2 and 3% of the UK population have some degree of learning disability, but only 0.06% of these were initially estimated to possess an unusually high level of specific ability. Savant ability is more frequently associated with those having some form of autism rather than with other disabilities. Current thinking holds that at most 1 or 2 in 200 individuals with an autism spectrum disorder might have a genuine savant talent. However, there is no reliable frequency estimate as yet as there is still no register of people with autism in the UK.

 

Myth

Asperger syndrome is a middle class malady made up by parents to excuse their badly behaved children.

Fact

Asperger syndrome is a very real and very disabling condition that has its own set of diagnostic criteria. It is often diagnosed slightly later than autism at around 11-13 years but its effects are just as real and can be devastating if people’s needs are not met.

 

Myth

Only children have autism and they can get better or grow out of it.

Fact

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability with no cure. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

 

Myth

Autism is the result of emotional deprivation or emotional stress.

Fact

Autism is a complex developmental disability involving a biological or organic defect in the functioning of the brain.

 

Myth

Autism is a new phenomenon.

Fact

The first detailed description of a child we now know had autism was written in 1799 by Jean Itard in his account of the wild boy of Aveyron.

 

Myth

A person with autism cannot be educated.

Fact

With the right structured support within and outside of school, individuals with autism can be helped to reach their full potential.

 

Myth

People with autism wish to avoid social contact.

Fact

People with autism are often keen to make friends but, due to their disability, find this difficult.