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Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition which affects how an individual communicates with and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

The understanding and identification of autism has improved since the 1940s when it was first identified. There is no 'cure' but there are many things that can be done to help individuals with autism.

The signs and common traits associated with Autism may include:

In spoken language

  • Delay in speech development
  • Monotonous, flat sounding or robotic like speech
  • Communicating in single words
  • Repeating set words or phrases

In responding to others

  • Individuals with Autism might find it difficult to show and accept affection
  • Not responding when their name is called, despite being able to hear
  • Reacting in a negative way when asked to do something

Interacting with others

  • Individuals with Autism can appear to have little interest in others. Ironically many children and adults with Autism are interested in interacting with others but don't show it in typical ways
  • Being unaware of people's personal space
  • Not enjoying situations others normally enjoy, such as parties or social gatherings
  • Preferring to play or do things on their own
  • Not making eye contact or making too much eye contact

In their behaviour

  • Repetitive movements such as rocking backwards and forwards, flapping their hands or flicking their fingers
  • Insisting on familiar routines and becoming very anxious or upset if this is disrupted or changed
  • Having a strong dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour as much as the taste
  • Playing with toys in a repetitive way, such as lining building blocks up rather than building with them

In addition to these signs the following may also develop

  • Avoiding use of spoken language
  • Talking 'at' people rather than having two way conversations
  • Failure to understand or implement social rules, or may be upset if rules are not implemented
  • Taking things literally and not being able to understand sarcasm, joke, metaphorical language or other common figures of speech
  • Having few friends and finding it difficult to form new relationships
  • Developing a very specific interest in a particular topic or subject
  • Experiencing sensory difficulties in relation to vision, smells touch, sound and taste. This can mean that they may be either very sensitive or under responsive (seeking out additional stimulation)

Autism is not a single condition, but a spectrum of closely related difficulties with shared characteristics. This means there can be individuals who are considered to be high functioning whilst others are on the lower functioning end of the spectrum. Every individual has some degree of problems with:

  • Communication
  • Social skills
  • Sensory difficulties
  • Flexible thinking

The level and ability of the combination of issues will vary greatly between individuals.  No two people with Autism have the same difficulties.  This also includes differences between the way males with autism present and  the way females present.  For more detailed information on these differences please go to http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/swan/.  Individuals with autism may also have difficulties understanding personal safety and other hazards in their environment.

For more information and a clear and concise guide, please refer to: Autism - a booklet for parents, carers and families of children and young people with autism