Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment.

Autism is a lifelong disability that starts when a person is born and stays with them into old age. Every person with Autism is different, so that is why autism is described as a ‘spectrum’.

Autism is often linked with physical, developmental or mental health conditions such as intellectual disability, epilepsy, gastro-intestinal issues, ADHD, dyspraxia, anxiety or depression. However, many of the disabling challenges associated with autism come about when people with autism are not given the respect, understanding and supports that allow them to be comfortable in a non-autistic world.

Communication

People with Autism may:

  • Communicate more honestly and directly
  • Dislike or have difficulty with small talk, sarcasm or understanding jokes
  • Repeat words or phrases in a way that can seem out of context
  • Not use or understanding gestures like pointing
  • Use sounds, signs, gestures or pictures to communicate instead of spoken words
  • Take extra time to understand spoken information

Social Interactions

People with Autism may:

  • Feel discomfort in busy complex social situations
  • Prefer to play alone or next to others more than with them
  • Have an ability to pay attention without making eye contact
  • Use or respond to body language differently
  • Find their social interactions are often misunderstood by non-autistic people

Leisure and Play

People with Autism may:

  • Have a preference for leisure based on passions
  • Play in non-traditional ways such as repetitive lining up of toys
  • Prefer to do things in the same way
  • Be more comfortable socialising through technology such as phones, video conferencing or online chats and games

Sensory

People with Autism may:

  • Be constantly aware or more aware of some sensations (sounds, smells, tastes, touch etc)
  • Feel distressed or overwhelmed if there are too many sensations at once (loud noises, lots of touching, bright lights etc)
  • Work hard to avoid distress by covering ears, hiding in quiet places, etc to block out sensations
  • Show discomfort with touch such as materials of clothes, tags or light touch from others
  • Seek sensory experiences by smelling food, flicking fingers in front of lights
  • Not notice internal sensations like hunger or pain

Thinking

People with Autism may:

  • Have an uneven pattern of thinking abilities
  • Have an ability to focus on one thing for a very long time;
  • Find difficulty in switching from one thing to another
  • Have an ability to notice specific details, patterns or changes that other people are unaware of

Experiencing and displaying emotions

  • A strong, sometimes overwhelming, emotional connection to others
  • Repeating movements such as flapping hands or pacing around to show excitement or to help cope with stress
  • Delay in learning to understand and regulate emotions
  • Difficulties understanding how non-autistic people think in some situations (Just as non-autistic people have difficulty understanding autistic people)
  • Rather than thinking of the autism spectrum as a line, it is more like a ‘constellation’.

The above information is adapted from:

What is autism?

Two young friends