What is Autism?

Autism 

Autism (sometimes referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD/Autism Spectrum Condition or ASC) is a development disorder affecting social, communication and imagination skills.  Children with autism share a common difficulty in making sense of the world.  The degree to which people with autism are affected varies, but the following are common characteristics:

  • Differences with verbal and non-verbal communication. This can manifest itself in ways such as struggling to pick up on tone of voice or missing physical cues; delayed speech or lack of speech; repetition of words or phrases (echolalia).         
  • Differences with social interaction. These can include finding it difficult to understand what other people are feeling or what they mean and  difficulty in the development of play and imagination.                                                                                           
  • A need for routine and repetition which can present in ways such as these: needing things to stay the same every day; finding changes difficult; repetitive movements such as hand flapping or spinning an object round.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Other very common signs of autism include sensory issues relating to touch, taste, light and sound; extreme anxiety; meltdowns; highly focused interests. 


For more information on the autistic spectrum, see these websites:

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/what-is-autism/

 

Asperger’s

Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism, a disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. Some people call Asperger’s ‘High-Functioning Autism’. Doctors do not usually diagnose people with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism anymore; the diagnosis will be Autism Spectrum Disorder or Autism Spectrum Condition. 

A number of the traits of autism are common to Asperger’s syndrome including:

  • Difficulty in communicating
  • Difficulty with social relationships
  • A lack of imagination and creative play

However, people with Asperger’s syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with autism, often speaking fluently though their words can sometimes sound formal or stilted.

People with Asperger’s syndrome also do not have the accompanying learning disabilities often associated with autism; in fact, people with Asperger’s syndrome are often of average or above-average intelligence.

The key characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome are:

  • Difficulty with social relationships
  • Difficulty with communication
  • Lack of imagination
  • Special interests
  • Love of routines                                                                                                   

For more information on Asperger’s Syndrome, see here: 

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism/asperger-syndrome

Pathological Demand Avoidance

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is not yet fully understood but is widely understood to be a profile on the autistic spectrum, according to the PDA Society. As well as sharing many characteristics with the other autism diagnoses, PDA has its own extra traits. People with PDA tend to not respond very well to traditional parenting techniques and even some autism techniques can backfire or be ineffective.

People with PDA will display these things:

  • Being highly avoidant of everyday demands, even if they are activities that the person likes
  • A need to have a high level of control over things
  • The use of creative, social ways to escape demands

Most people will not currently receive a diagnosis of PDA but they may receive one of autism with demand-avoidance characteristics.

For more information on PDA, see here:

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/diagnosis/pda

The Positives!

It can be hard to look beyond the challenges autism brings, especially when your child receives a diagnosis. However, there are many, many strengths that go hand in hand with autism. They will vary from person but may include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Honesty
  • Punctuality
  • Subject expertise
  • Solid sense of what is right and wrong
  • Conscientious
  • Commitment to be accurate
  • Passion for what they are interested in
  • Creativity
  • Loyalty
  • Adherence to rules
  • Logical thinking
  • Highly focused

It is no wonder that so many engineers, computer programmers and quality controllers are on the autistic spectrum!