Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong developmental disability that (amongst other things) affects the way a person interacts with others and relates to their environment.
The word ‘spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties people with autism spectrum disorder may experience and the degree to which they may be affected.
It is estimated that one in 100 people have autism spectrum disorder and it affects almost four times as many boys as girls.
Characteristics of autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorder can be characterised by difficulties in:
- Social interaction: the understanding and use of non-verbal communication
- Communication: language development and initiating and engaging in conversations
- Restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours: repetitive body movements, non-functional routines and unusually specific interests
People with autism spectrum disorder may also have sensory sensitivities, intellectual or learning disabilities.
Types of autism spectrum disorder
Types of autism spectrum disorders include:
Autistic disorder: Generally evident prior to three years of age, autistic disorder can include impairments in communication and social interaction as well as restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours.
Asperger’s syndrome: Difficulties with social communication and interaction and restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours. With no significant delay in early language acquisition and cognitive abilities.
Atypical autism: marked social impairment, failing to meet full criteria for either autistic disorder or Asperger’s syndrome. May have communication impairments and/or restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours.