Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), also called autism spectrum conditions (ASC) or the autism spectrum, with the word autistic sometimes replacing autism, are a spectrum of psychological conditions characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior.
Autism is one of the five autism spectrum disorders. Of the other four autism spectrum disorders, Asperger's syndrome is closest to autism in signs and likely causes; Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder share several signs with autism but may have unrelated causes; finally, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is diagnosed when the criteria are not met for a more specific disorder.
Unlike autism, Asperger's has no significant delay in language development.
The terminology of autism can be bewildering, with autism, Asperger's, and PDD-NOS sometimes called the autistic disorders, whereas autism itself is often called autistic disorder, childhood autism, or infantile autism. ASD in turn is a subset of the broader autism phenotype (BAP), which describes individuals who may not have ASD but do have some autistic-like traits, such as avoiding eye contact.
One review estimated a prevalence of at least 1.3 per 1,000 for autism and 6.0–6.5 per 1,000 for ASD; PDD-NOS was the vast majority of ASD, Asperger's was about 0.3 per 1,000 and the atypical forms childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett syndrome were much rarer.
Autism is a problem people grow up with, affecting how they interact with the world around them and other people.
An American doctor, Leo Kanner, first identified autism in 1943.
Today, we refer to these disabilities as \"autistic spectrum disorders\" (ASDs), because some people are more severely disabled than others.
ASDs cause difficulties with the ability to communicate and to interact socially with other people, and also restrict the way people lead their lives.
Unlike some disabilities, you can’t tell that a person has an ASD just by looking at them.
Some people feel that because an ASD is 'invisible', it’s harder for others to understand or empathise with them. Although it’s not thought of as a learning disability itself, a large number of people who have ASDs have some level of learning disability as well.
Most people with ASDs receive services and support from learning disability organisations.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them.
Children and adults with autism have difficulties with everyday social interaction. Their ability to develop friendships is generally limited as is their capacity to understand other people's emotional expression.
People with autism can often have accompanying learning disabilities but everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the world.
There is also a condition called Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism used to describe people who are usually at the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum.
\"Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights.
There seems to be no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of my life is spent just trying to work out the pattern behind everything.\"
What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects the development of social, communication and imagination skills. It presents itself in varying degrees of severity and touches the lives of some 520,000 children and adults in the UK.
This complex condition affects four times as many boys as girls, has no ethnic or social regard and is a lifelong condition for which there is no cure.
Not all individuals with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder \"live in their own world\"
Parents do not cause their children to have Autism.
Just because individuals with Autism have a developmental delay it does not mean they cannot be taught what they are lacking.
Many children with Autism are very, very intelligent.
Asperger Syndrome can manifest itself in a mild or severe form and people with the disorder can exhibit a variety of characteristics.
People with Aspergers Syndrome show a liking of sameness and therefore a dislike of transitions or change.
Many individuals with AS show obsessions towards particular subjects and are often keen on routines.
Individuals with AS find it difficult to read other peoples body language and facial expressions.
Many people with AS are sensitive to loud noises, certain smells and sights.
Their sense of touch can also be affected, with many liking the feel of soft clothing and the texture of only certain foods.
People with Aspergers do not see the world in the way other people see the world, therefore although their behavior may seem odd or different to many, to people with AS it isn't.
People diagnosed with AS will generally have normal to high levels of IQ and a small minority will have talents in specific areas.
Although many people with AS appear to have good language skills their pragmatic use of speech may be lacking.
A person with AS may appear on the surface to have an extremely high level of speech however this will not be used well in a social context.
As a consequence of this coupled with their naïveté individuals with AS may appear odd or eccentric and are often the victims of bullying or ridicule particularly at school age.
Often people with AS will have difficulty with social pragmatics for example difficulty with eye contact, and are sometimes seen to be \"walking to a different drum\".
Motor skills can also be lacking and often a person with AS will be considered clumsy, this is reflected in their dislike for physical games at school.
It is recognised that individuals with AS are keen to engage in social interaction in many cases and that these social skills can be learned in the same way as other people learn to do practical things.
Individuals with AS have difficulties with emotional feelings and find it more difficult than non AS individuals to form relationships.
This piece was written by Action for ASD staff and is not to be used as a tool for self- diagnosis.