What is Autism & ASD?

The National Autistic Society describe autism as a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them. It’s what’s known as a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. The spectrum is commonly known as ASD.

ASD usually becomes noticeable in childhood, and it’s thought that 700,000 people may have autism in the UK population, and 5m in the Western World.

It is called a spectrum disorder because although everyone with autism shares similar difficulties, the scale of how it affects people differs greatly.

The cause is not known but it is thought that genetic and environmental factors play a part. There’s no cure for autism but there are educational and behavioural support programmes that can help.

We are witnessing rapidly increasing numbers of ASD diagnoses in the Developing World, which may be due to better detection measures. There is a school of thought that links some of this increase to more use of Western drugs and vaccines – but this is a very “murky” area.


What are the symptoms?

ASD is very difficult to diagnose, but here are some of the things to look out for -

  • Difficulty with social interaction and communication
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings and emotions
  • Difficulty starting conversations and taking part in them
  • Difficulty with language development
  • Struggle with change and prefer to stick to the same routine
  • Over or under sensitivity to sights, sounds, colours, tastes and lights


Living and coping with ASD

The main symptoms of ASD often occur in childhood so it’s important to try and get a diagnosis as soon as possible. There are many support services available to help those with autism and also those caring for someone with autism. The National Autistic Society is a good place to look for lots of helpful information and advice.


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