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What is Autism / ASD 1


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three.

It’s estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.

There’s no “cure” for ASD, but speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions are available to help children and parents.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism Spectrum Condition is a type of neurodiversity. Autism is a difference you are born with and you will be autistic your whole life.

Being Autistic does not mean you have an illness, that you are defective or in any way ‘less than’ a neurotypical individual. Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a “cure”. It means your brain works in a different way and you have your own unique set of strengths and needs.

“Different, not less” Dr Temple Grandin

It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK have an official diagnosis of Autism, however it is likely many more are undiagnosed. Every Autistic person is unique and there are some shared characteristics; a diagnosis of autism is considered when the person has specific differences in the areas described below.

Social communication and interactions

There are a range of communication abilities on the Autistic spectrum; some autistic people are unable to speak or only communicate using echolalia (repeating of words), whilst other Autistic people have very good language skills. Autistic individuals can struggle to understand gestures, identify facial expressions and imply meaning by tone of voice. Some individuals may have a more literal interpretation and some may require a longer processing time to fully understand a concept. Some autistic individuals describe finding eye contact uncomfortable.

Some Autistic individuals can find it difficult to make and maintain relationships; some may be socially motivated whereas others may prefer to spend their time alone. An autistic individual can feel overwhelmed after spending a lot of time with other people.

Repetitive and restrictive behaviour

Autistic individuals often prefer to have routines and can dislike change as when they know what is going to happen, their world is more predictable and less anxiety provoking. They may choose to wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, go to the same places.

Many Autistic individuals have intense interests; these passions can be lifelong or for an intense period of focus. These interests may extend to collections and attending events related to their interest. Autistic individuals gain a huge sense of well-being and pleasure when engaging in their interests.

Sensory sensitivities

Autistic individuals experience sensory sensitivities; this means they may be over or under-sensitive to sensory input, including sound, touch, taste, smell, light, colour, temperature or pain. For example, an autistic individual with light sensitivity may experience a fluorescent strip light as painful to their eyes; an autistic individual with tactile sensitivity may not be able to wear certain materials, or they may seek out specific textures.

Many of our everyday environments include high levels of sensory information and, as such, can feel overwhelming for an Autistic individual.

Autistic individuals can also engage in sensory self-soothing. This can be repetitive movements such as hand flapping and rocking. These behaviours can decrease their anxiety and can also bring the individual a sense of positive wellbeing.

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