About Autism

About Autism, Aspergers - autism assessment, autism workshop, psychology, psychologistThe term Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is used to describe a broad range of social, communication and behavioural difficulties experienced by children, adolescents and adults. Some people with autism find it hard to negotiate the unwritten rules of social situations. Others can have difficulty recognising their own and others' emotions, and may need assistance to express their emotions appropriately. Some individuals may prefer to spend time alone or alongside others rather than fully engaging in group games and activities. They may be less likely to display their affection for others, or may be affectionate on their own terms. They may have strong (and sometimes unusual) interests and be able to focus on these for long periods of time, or talk about topics long after their listener has lost interest. Many people with autism are extra-sensitive to particular sounds, tastes, textures or smells, but they may be less likely to notice subtle non-verbal social cues like facial expressions and gestures.

Early signs of autism include children not responding when their name is called, making less eye contact, and making fewer attempts to share their interest or enjoyment with their parents. Sometimes parents may worry that their child is deaf. Other parents may describe their child as "in a world of their own", less aware of the activities of people around them.

Autism, Aspberger, autism training, assessment, workshop, psychology, psychologistEach individual displays their own combination of behaviours and this will change over time and across situations. For example, individuals with an ASD often cope better when they have time to prepare for a social event, and cope less well when a "surprise party" is thrown for them. Individuals with ASD also cope better when those around them can glimpse the world from an autistic perspective, and can plan ahead to avoid potential pitfalls.

ASDs include the following diagnostic terms:

  • Autism (including Classic Autism and Kanner's Autism) is diagnosed when individuals meet enough of the criteria in the areas of communication, social skills, and repetitive behaviours and restricted interests. Some individuals with autism also have an intellectual delay or disability, while others are highly intelligent. Some individuals have little speech and use signs or pictures to communicate, others can be highly verbal.
  • Asperger's disorder is similar to autism and is often diagnosed when individuals have average to high intelligence and have not experienced a speech delay
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is diagnosed when the individual falls somewhere on the autism spectrum but does not meet the full criteria for Autism or Asperger's disorder.

ASDs are known as "pervasive developmental disorders" because they affect many areas of an individual's daily life, rather than one specific area. There is no cure for autism, but individuals with autism can certainly learn coping strategies and gain many skills that assist them to engage with others and negotiate their way in the world. There are a range of evidence-based interventions available to assist children and young people with autism and Asperger's.

There are many examples of people with autism or Asperger's who have excelled in their area of interest. For example Bill Gates was able to combine his computer skills and business acumen to build the Microsoft empire. Temple Grandin, who identifies as having autism, has become a world expert on designing gates and other structures for handling livestock in ways that keep the animals calm and less likely to injure themselves or their handlers. Many people with Asperger's work in Universities, where they are encouraged to engage in research about their own specific interests.

For more information about autism and Asperger’s, the following links under 'About Autism & Asperger's' on the right may be useful.