Autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that covers everyone with conditions within the spectrum of autism.
ASD is thought to affect around one in 200 children and adults, although this is likely to be an underestimate. There are differences between the subgroups but all children and adults with an ASD will have the following core difficulties.
Non-verbal and verbal communication
People with ASD have difficulty in understanding the communication and language of others and also in communicating themselves. Many are delayed in learning to speak and some do not develop speech.
Social understanding and social behaviour
People with an ASD have difficulty in understanding the social behaviour of others and can behave in socially inappropriate ways. People with ASDs are very literal in how they think and interpret language and are unable to read social context. Children with an ASD often find it hard to play and communicate with other children, who may be confused by their behaviour and may avoid or tease them.
Thinking and behaving flexibly according to the situation
People with an ASD tend to have special interests in particular topics or activities, which they may pursue obsessively. They may struggle to generalise skills to other activities. They will also have difficulty adapting to new situations and often prefer routine to change.
Sensory perception and responses
Some people with ASDs are either very sensitive or very insensitive to certain sounds, sights and textures. This can affect their responses to things like clothes or food and noise. They may also make unusual eye contact - ie. they may not talk and look at someone at the same time.