Autism or an Autistic Spectrum Condition is a lifelong developmental disability which profoundly affects the way a person thinks, communicates and relates to others around them. Children and adults with autism are very disadvantaged because they have real difficulties making sense of the world and understanding the rules of social conduct. Everyday situations can cause them extreme anxiety resulting in repetitive or challenging behaviours, obsessional interests and resistance to change.
It is a spectrum condition so there are degrees of the disability – ranging from severe, classic (Kanner’s) Autism where individuals may have little or no language and also often have moderate to severe learning difficulties, to the High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome where the individual may have good verbal skills and a normal to high level of intelligence. The difference between High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome is that individuals with Asperger Syndrome often desire social contact but don’t know how to go about it, whereas those with High Functioning Autism often prefer to avoid social contact. However, everyone on the spectrum finds life very confusing and chaotic and has difficulty putting order into their lives.
The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the ‘Triad of Impairments’, as first described by Lorna Wing. They are:
- Difficulty with social communication
- Difficulty with social interaction
- Difficulty with social imagination