People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have said "that the world, to them, is a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, and which can cause them considerable
anxiety". ASD including Autism and Aspergers Syndrome is a life-long developmental disability. Some people have severe Autism and require a lot of specialist support; others exhibit mild
characteristics of Autism and live largely independent lives. This means that Autism is often reffered to as a 'spectrum' condition.
Many people with ASD also have a learning disability but a (roughly) equal number do not. This latter group is sometimes known as having high-functioning Autism and many have a diagnois of
Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of Autism.
All people with ASD have difficulties in 3 areas. This is known as a 'triad of impairments'. People with ASD have:
- Difficulties with social interaction and find it hard to instinctively understand, or recognise, how other people are feeling. They find it hard also to express their own
emotions. This can make getting on with people problematic and highly stressful.
- Difficulties with social communication and struggle with verbal and non-verbal language. This varies enormously - some have no speech whilst others have language but it is
impaired, for example they may take what is said literally, and mis-understand body language, humour and double meanings. Some people use limited body language.
- Difficulties with social imagination and without clear structure do not easily conceive of alternatives to their daily routines, imagine what might happed next in their lives or
organise themselves. They find it hard to interpret what others may be thinking, or to engage in imaginative activities. People may have limited coping strategies and apply them inappropriately, or
may not be able to indentify risks consistently.
As a result, people with ASD typically struggle with the 'rules'of social engagement, such as when to speak, when to laugh and when to empathise. They might therefore prefer their own company, so
avoiding unpredictable and stressful situations. While many people with ASD have good language skills, others will speak little or not at all. People with ASD typically prefer communication to be
simple and clear.
Many people with ASD also have:
- Sensory sensitivity - over/under sensitivity to things such as light, sound and heat, or certain tastes, textures or smells.
- Problems with motor skills or balance.
- A need for stucture - perceiving the world as a muddled chaos, people with ASD sometimes impose their own routines in order to help make sense of it.
- Narrow interests - some people with ASD can develop a very close interest in a particular topic or pastime, often becoming extremely knowledgeable in it. This can be a strength;
in that opens career prospects and in some people it may result in spending excessive time taking part and missing meals or sleep.
- A focus on detail - this is also a strength, which can enable high levels of achievement in certain fields. It can however inhibit understanding of the 'bigger picture' in relationship and
- Mild difficulties in one area of the trias and severe difficulties in another;
- Skills and needs that fluctuate from day-to-day and moment-to-moment.