Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. It is the result of a neurological condition which affects how the brain processes information- in particular, it can affect communication and social interaction.
There are approximately 700,000 people in the UK with autism, more than 1 in 100 people. People from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds can have autism, although it appears to affect more men than women.
The exact cause of autism is still unknown. However, research suggests there is no single cause but rather a combination of genetic and environmental factors which account for changes in brain development.
Autism is part of the spectrum which is sometimes referred to as autism spectrum condition, or ASC. The word ‘spectrum’ is used because, whilst all people with autism share areas of difficulty, each person with autism is unique and their condition will affect them in different ways.
Common characteristics of ASC include difficulties with:
- Social communication – difficulties understanding language, verbal and non-verbal.
- Social interaction – difficulties expressing and reading other people’s emotions.
- Social imagination – difficulties understanding and predicting the world.
- Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour – following routines and patterns.
- Sensory processing – hyper-sensitivity or hypo-sensitivity can cause anxiety.