Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically affects a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and the ability to respond appropriately and flexibly to the environment. 

People with this disorder can display a wide range of symptoms and disabilities. They may engage in repetitive activities, such as hand flapping, rocking or banging, their heads. Typically, they may also follow rigid familiar patterns in their everyday routines. Some people are over reactive or under reactive sensitive to sound, touch, sight, or smell.

People with autism can have problems with: 

  • Relating to people
  • language use and communication
  • Becoming obsessed with particular objects
  • Fine movements and may be clumsy
  • Sensory integration

2. Why are people with Autism so different from each other?

Autism is generally called autistic spectrum disorder. This is because each of the three aspects of autism: communication, social skills and thinking style can be shown in different ways and to different degrees. For example socially the person may be seen as either

  • Aloof
  • Passive
  • Active but Odd
  • Overformal and polite

In addition their level of skills can vary from limited ability to extremely talented in specific areas. This means people with (ASD) can be very different from each other. This is why diagnosis of autism requires a specialist team made up of variety of professionals such as clinical psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians and psychiatrists.

Generally on the spectrum two types of presentations of the disorder can be identified.   

  • People who have great difficulties in all the three areas that is communication, social skills and flexible thinking.
  • People, who have fewer difficulties in communication and language, but have greater difficulties in social skills and flexible thinking

3. Do people with autism have sensory difficulties?

People with autism often seem to have sensory problems. They could be oversensitive or under sensitive to sights, sounds and noise, textures tastes and smells.. They have unusual reactions to sensory experiences. For example a liking for strange tastes or smells. Their behaviour can appear very strange but it is linked to how they experience sensations.

4. What are the main features for diagnosis of people with autistic spectrum disorders?

There are three main criteria used for diagnosis, all of which have to be present   

  • Language and communication difficulties
  • Difficulties in social interaction
  • Problems with thinking in flexible and imaginative ways.

5. What are the common problems with autism?

  • Language and communication difficulties
  • Lack of understanding of communication
  • Poor use of facial expression, gesture and body language
  • Delay in developing effective communication
  • Delay in developing speech and language skills
  • Social Interaction
  • Difficulties in making relationships
  • Lack of awareness of other peoples feelings
  • Difficulties in expressing feelings and emotions
  • Difficulties in seeing other peoples points of view
  • Flexible and imaginative thinking
  • Repetitive patterns of movement and behaviour
  • Resistance to change
  • Distress at any form of change
  • Unusual interest and obsessions
  • Inability to stop doing things
  • Strong likes and dislikes about certain food

6. Are there other less common problems with autism?

Some people with autism may have behavioural difficulties. There are also some emotional difficulties such as fear and phobias and eating disorders. It is thought some people with autism may have particular problems with their bowels. Other people may have problems with disrupted sleep patterns. 

7. How does autism effect behaviour?

Inability to understand language, other people’s point of view and other people’s feelings and thoughts means that people with autism can appear very self centered. The need for structure, routine and sameness results in them becoming very distressed and anxious especially when they cannot anticipate what is happening next. 

8. How severe are behavioural problems in people with autism?

The type of behavioural problems and how difficult they are to manage varies with each individual. Generally environmental modifications and a consistent approach are successful in reducing stress and establishing self-control. Working towards preventing outbursts of behaviour is better than having to cope with a distressed individual.

9. Is autism a physical problem?

Autism is due to brain structure in particular areas of the brain. This does not usually result in physical disability. However some people with autism can be particularly clumsy, and walk in unusual ways. They may also lack the ability to to show appropriate facial expression or coordinate their body language with their speech.

10. Is autism due to poor parenting?

Sometimes people with autism may be seen as badly behaved or extremely rude. Their inability to see other people’s point of view or understand other peoples feelings is not the parent’s or carer’s fault. 

11. Is autism an emotional problem?

An emotional problem is best defined as something that adults experience because of distress or depression in their life. However the emotional problems of people with autism is part of the disorder. Sometimes as they get older their awareness of their difficulties may mean they get other emotional problems in later life such as suffering from depression.

12. Do people with autism look different?

There are no physical ways, which show a person has autistic spectrum disorder. The way people move and their lack of body language can draw attention to their difficulties.

13. What is a Developmental Disability?

Developmental disability   is a term used to describe such disabilities where intellectual, emotional and physical impairments are observed before the age of 22. As a result of disabilities an individual may have difficulties in the area of independent living, sensory-motor coordination, learning, language and communication and thus they may not develop normally. The disabilities can be severe, profound, moderate or mild but if an individual is given adequate personal, social, emotional, economic and technical support their adaptive functioning becomes better and their quality of life improves.The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association, 1994) uses the term Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) to describe people who have autism spectrum disorder or autistic like conditions.People with conditions like mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder are described under the umbrella of Developmental disabilities. 

Mental Retardation :   The American Association on Mental Retardation defines Mental Retardation as a disability where there is ‚Äúsignificant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills.This disability originates before age 18. (AAMR, 2002). The AAMR definition of mental retardation emphasizes that if people with Mental Retardation are provided with appropriate and adequate kind of support over a sustained period their life functioning will generally improve