What is autism?
Autism is a complex, life-long condition which affects the development of communication, social and life skills. It affects how individuals perceive the world and interact with others. The extent of the autistic spectrum is wide-ranging, varying from profound severity in some to subtle problems of understanding in others. No two individuals with autism are alike as autism affects everybody differently. Autism can occur with other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and learning disability. Autism is a hidden condition which means that you cannot tell that someone has autism simply by looking at them. Whilst there is no cure for autism, with the right structured support, education and care, much can be done to help children and adults with autism to live as full and independent a life as possible.
Roughly 1% of the UK population has autism that’s around 700,000 people. This figure may be an underestimation given that is based on people that have received a diagnosis. Not everyone with autism has a diagnosis.
All those affected by autism have differing levels of difficulty in:
- Communication – many things that people without autism take for granted, such as words, gestures, tones of voice and facial expressions can mean little to autistic people and can be often confusing and open to misinterpretation
- Social relationships – autistic children and adults can often be indifferent to other people, members of the public, friends and even their parents / carers. They may struggle to make or maintain friendships.
- Processing – abstract ideas, imaginative thought and activities are affected and autistic people can face great difficulties in generalising their experiences to different settings.
- Sensory – some autistic people can be under (hypo) or over (hyper) sensitive to sounds, smells, touch, taste and textures, for example lights can be too bright, sounds can be too loud and touch can be painful. Others may need to seek out sensations in order to feel okay.