What is autism?

The national autism strategy defines autism as a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them. The core areas of difficulty/difference which all people with autism share are in the areas of:

  • Social communication
  • Sensory difference
  • Flexible thinking and restricted interests. 

Autism can co-exist with other difficulties e.g. attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and learning disabilities. People with autism can also experience mental health problems and physical and sensory disabilities.

Autism is known as a spectrum condition because of the range of difficulties that affect people. At one end of the spectrum people can have average to above average intelligence, they may have been through mainstream education and need no specialist services; at the other end people may have learning disabilities and other impairments, and may need a range of specialist services.

Because autism affects people in different ways, each individual will have their own unique needs, and therefore services and support need to be person centred. 

You may have come across different terms to describe people who are on the autism spectrum. These include:

  • Asperger syndrome
  • High functioning autism
  • Classic autism

We use the term autism to cover all conditions that come under the autism spectrum.

For more information about the many different issues affecting people with autism and their families go to the National Autistic Society website at www.nas.org.uk