What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental difficulty that impacts on how an individual communicates and interacts with others. It also affects how an individual makes sense of the world around them. Autism is a spectrum, which means that each individual with autism shares common difficulties in social communication and restrictive or repetitive patterns of behaviour or interests, however the level of severity across these difficulties will impact on individuals in different ways.

Some children and young people may have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (although this diagnostic term has been removed from the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- DSM V, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Individuals with Asperger syndrome are classified as having average or above average intelligence by Hans Asperger (1944). Individuals with Asperger Syndrome may present with fewer difficulties with speech and they may have a wide vocabulary but have difficulty in their comprehension and processing of language. Although they may have an extensive vocabulary, they may have differences in how they interact with others and may have difficulties in expressing themselves effectively.

The main areas of difference which all people with autism share are:

    • social communication and interaction
    • restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities

For current diagnostic criteria please see links below: