Autistic Spectrum Disorder

What is it?

ASD is a neurodevelopment disorder which means it is caused by abnormalities in the way the brain develops and works. It affects approximately 1 in 100 young people and children.

Children and Young People with ASD have particular difficulties in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts (e.g. home and school). Examples of this are the following:

  • Struggling to engage in the normal back-and-forth of conversation with another person
  • Difficulties initiating or responding to social interactions
  • Reduced sharing of interests
  • Reduced use of nonverbal communicative behaviours used for social interaction e.g. poor use of eye contact, gestures, body language or facial expressions.
  • Difficulties in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships
  • Absence of interest in peers
  • Difficulties in sharing imaginary play
  • Difficulties adjusting behaviour to suit various social contexts.
  • Children and Young People with ASD also have restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. Examples of this are the following:
  • Likeness for routines, difficulties with changes to routine
  • Ritualised behaviour e.g. having to say certain things before going to bed, eating the same thing for every meal
  • Highly restricted fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity e.g. liking star wars and talking about it at every opportunity even when in appropriate
  • Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).
  • Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements or use of objects e.g. repeating phrases said by other people and lining up of objects
  • Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour

It is important that the above difficulties are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. (Although intellectual disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder can co-occur).

There is no "cure" for autism, it is a lifelong condition. However, assessments are available to get a diagnosis. A range of behavioural and educational strategies and approaches may be used to manage the challenging behaviours that are associated with autism.

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