An Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to the people around them. People with ASD have difficulty on relating to others in a meaningful way. Their ability to develop friendships is generally limited as is their capacity to understand other people’s emotional expressions. Some people, but not all, have accompanying learning disabilities .All people with ASD have impairments in social interaction, social communication and imagination. This is known as the triad of impairments.
Some children may be diagnosed as having Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism. Children with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with language than those with Classic/Kanner autism, often speaking fluently, though their words can sometimes sound formal or stilted.
People with Asperger syndrome do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with Classic/Kanner autism: in fact, children with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above intelligence. Many will enter mainstream school and, with the right support and encouragement, can make good progress and go on to further education and employment.
It is important to realise that each person with an ASD is different from the next so the descriptions in this information sheet should only be taken as a general guide. Nevertheless, the common problems affecting social interaction, communication and imagination and the behaviour are common to all.
Children with an ASD exhibit a wide range of behaviours. Essentially though, the child will have difficulty relating to others and making friends; difficulty in communicating (some children may not talk at all); and be unable to engage in imaginative play.
Other signs include obsessions, fears, a lack of awareness of danger, ritualistic play and behaviour, inappropriate eye contact, hypersensitivity to sound, light etc., pinning objects and hand flapping.
A child does not need to show all these signs to be diagnosed as having an ASD and some children who do not have an ASD may exhibit some of these behaviours.