April is...

06 April 2015

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them and is sometimes referred to as an autism spectrum disorder, or an ASD. The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

  •  Difficulty with social communication
  • Difficulty with social interaction
  • Difficulty with social imagination

 

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying lerning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over - or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

More than 1 out of every 100 people has autism.

You cannot always tell that someone has autism just by looking at them. Because of this autism is sometimes called a hidden disability.

Autism lasts for all of a person's life. But they can still do a lot of things and learn a lot of skills.

Statistically, autism affects more males than females, but the reasons for this remain unclear. Girls may be better at hiding their difficulties.

Wing (1981) found that among people with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome there were as many as 15 times as many males as females. On the other hand, when she looked at people with learning difficulties as well as autism the ratio of boys to girls was closer to 2:1. This would suggest that, while females are less likely to develop autism, when they do they are more severely impaired.

 

How do people with autism see the world?

People with autism have said that the world, to them, is a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, and which can cause them considerable anxiety.

In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family and social life may be harder for them. Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, and some people with autism may wonder why they are 'different'.

It can be hard to create awareness of autism as people with the condition do not 'look' disabled: parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood.

 

Difficulties experienced

Some people with autism find these things difficult:

  • They find it difficult to tell people what they need, and how they feel.
  • They find it difficult to meet other people and to make new friends.
  • They find it difficult to understand what other people think, and how they feel.

 Not everyone with autism will find these things difficult. This is because everyone with autism is different.

 

What causes autism?

No one knows why people have autism.

If your child has autism, it is not because you are a bad parent.

More than 1 person in a family may have autism. It can be genetic. This means autism can pass from parents to their children.

 

How do people with autism behave?

  • They may not speak. But they may use things like pictures or sign language to communicate.
  • They may not understand what other people say.
  • They may copy what other people say.
  • They may only talk about their favourite subject.
  • They may not take part in games or activities with other people.
  • They may like to play the same game or do the same thing every day.
  • They may be very interested in one thing and know a lot about it.
  • They may be good at remembering information.
  • They may do well at school, college and work.

 

What else is special about autism?

Some people:

  • May find co-ordination difficult. This means that they may find it difficult to do things like use scissors, use knives and forks, or ride a bike.
  • May be very good at something. For example, they may be very good at maths, art or music.
  • Can be good at learning how to do something when they see someone else doing it.
  • May be good at concentrating on one activity.
  • May have learning disabilities.
  • May have other difficulties. For example, they may have dyslexia

 

Autism and The 5 senses

The 5 senses are:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste

 

Sight

Some people with autism may not like bright lights and colours. Other people with autism might like them a lot.

Sound

Some people with autism may not like loud noises. Other people with autism might like certain noises.

Smell

Some people with autism may not like some smells. Other people with autism might like a certain smell.

Touch

Some people with autism may not like being touched. Other people with autism might like being touched.

Taste

Some people with autism may like to eat the same food every day. Other people with autism might like lots of different food.

 

Asperger syndrome

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.

People with Asperger syndrome do not have learning disabilities. But they find the same things difficult as people with autism.

Some people with Asperger syndrome find these things difficult.

  • They find it difficult to tell people what they need, and how they feel.
  • They find it difficult to meet other people and to make new friends.
  • They find it difficult to understand what other people think, and how they feel.

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