What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some are able to live relatively ‘everyday’ lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support. Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism.

Autism is much more common than people think and doesn’t just affect children. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

What are the signs?

  • autism is often described as an ‘invisible disability’ 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.
  • the three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the ‘triad of impairments’. They are:
    1. difficulty with social communication – people with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say.
    2. difficulty with social interaction – people with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people’s emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.
    3. difficulty with social imagination – social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people’s behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our daily routine.