What is Autism

There are several different names and phrases used to describe autism. These include:

  • Classic autism
  • Kanner Syndrome
  • High-functioning autism
  • Able autism
  • Atypical autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Semantic Pragmatic Disorder (SPD)
  • Autistic tendencies Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)

Autistic Spectrum  (AS)

AS is an umbrella term used to describe these conditions because it groups together all the different variations of this disorder. The idea of a spectrum is useful because it shows that people with a diagnosis of autism can range from average or above average intelligence to having severe learning disabilities. Autism is a severe and pervasive developmental ‘disorder’ that affects the functionality of the brain and the way a person is able to process information. It is characterised by difficulties in social interactions and communication, stereotypical patterns of interest, behaviours and rigidity in thought process and imagination. (Triad of Impairment). People with autism do not learn or understand rules incidentally as non autistic people do. They need to be taught. If clear consistent rules and boundaries are provided and the tools to support them within that special environment, they can, over time, learn to develop thought processes and actions that will work for them in society and their communities.

Some refer to the condition as a disease, which it is not. It is not easy for those of us who are not autistic to understand; after all we live in our communities and by and large, fit in one way or another. We also have ‘Theory of Mind’. This means we know that others think, that their thoughts are their own and different to ours so we take that into consideration when we communicate.

Symptoms of autism normally appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life. Even though there is no cure, effective early educational involvement can provide a good chance of improving the social development of a child and reduce inappropriate behaviours. People with autism have a normal life expectancy.