Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to engage and interact with the world around them.

ASD is a common developmental disability that affects around 1 in every 100 to 110 people.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is a developmental disability that affects an individual’s social interactions, behaviour and overall ability to interact with their environment. It is a permanent condition and there is no cure.

ASD includes autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Individuals with ASD are impacted in two main areas: impaired communication and social interaction; and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.

No two individuals with ASD are alike. The combination and severity of developmental characteristics varies for each individual. A person with ASD may have difficulties developing in some areas and normal development in others.

The concept of an autism ‘spectrum’ describes the different levels of severity and range of characteristics displayed by individuals with ASD.

Signs of autism

There is a range of behaviours associated with ASD, including:

  • Absent, delayed or abnormal language patterns
  • Isolated and repetitive play behaviour
  • Body movements such as flapping and toe walking, and other behaviours that may cause self-injury
  • Restricted or obsessive behaviour
  • Rituals and routines. A change to routine can cause high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Tantrums relating to confusion, stress, anxiety, anger and frustration
  • Sensory sensitivities to particular stimuli, such as sounds, colours, tastes, smells and textures

People with ASD may also have other conditions, too, including:

  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Intellectual disability
  • Sleep issues
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor fine and gross motor skills

Many individuals with ASD have difficulties interpreting sensory information, and may display over- or under-sensitivity. Being over-sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell and vision can be  distressing to individuals with an ASD and can result in strong reactions.

Depending on the severity of the condition and secondary conditions, some people with ASD may be able to live independently, while others may need constant assistance and support.