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. 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 learning 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. Autism is part of the autism spectrum 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 sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:
- Difficulty with social communication
- Difficulty with social interaction
- Difficulty with social imagination
The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another but as well as the three main areas of difficulty, people with autism may have:
- Love of Routines
- Sensory Sensitivity
- Special Interests
- Learning Disabilities
Who is affected by Autism?
Autism is much more common than most people think. There are over half a million people in the UK with autism - that's around 1 in 100 people. People from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds can have autism, although it appears to affect males more than females . It is a lifelong condition: children with autism grow up to become adults with autism.
Autism can effect many people, including a variety of famous faces, from director Tim Burton to Mozart to Einstein, who knows maybe our children could follow in their footsteps.
What causes Autism?
The exact cause of autism is still being investigated. However, research suggests that a combination of factors - genetic and environmental - may account for changes in brain development. Autism is not caused by a person's upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual with the condition.
Is there a cure?
At present, there is no ‘cure' for autism. However, there is a range of interventions - methods of enabling learning and development - which people may find to be helpful.
A diagnosis is the formal identification of autism, usually by a health professional such as a paediatrician or a psychiatrist. Having a diagnosis is helpful for two reasons:
- It helps people with autism (and their families) to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them.
- It allows people to access services and support.
(The information above has been taken from the National Autistic Society)