A Brief Introduction to Autism

 2nd Feb 2016

Despite affecting over 700,000 people in the UK alone, many people are unaware of the characteristics and symptoms of Autism.

Autism is a “spectrum condition”, meaning its effects can vary greatly from one person to another. Some people living with Autism are able to integrate fully and independently into society, whilst others require substantial support.

Who Does it Affect?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. On its own, autism is not a learning disability or a mental health problem. But some people with autism have an accompanying learning disabilitylearning difficulty or mental health problem.  It affects both children and adults of all ages. (NHS Choices).

Unfortunately, many children living with autism are often misunderstood and can be perceived as simply behaving poorly. As many as 17% of children with autism have been suspended from school and 4% of these had been expelled.

How Does Autism Affect People

The central characteristics which define autism are issues with:

  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Imagination
  • Repetitive behaviour

It can be hard for Autistic people to share their feelings with others and, similarly, they may also find difficulty in understanding other people, especially when more advanced forms of language are used.

For instance, metaphors, irony and sarcasm can often be problematic as they divert from the literal meaning of events and opinions which can often seem unusual and unnecessary.

Social interactions can prove increasingly difficult as analysing people’s emotions becomes much harder and, so, autistic people may appear to react insensitively.

Additionally, issues with communication and social behaviour can make Autistic people feel anxious which can lead to further problems, however, this does not affect everyone.

As many people experience social isolation as well as difficulty in finding employment, depression is also another common development for those affected.

Different Disorders within the Spectrum

In May 2013, the diagnosis system was restructured from multiple separate conditions to just one Autism Spectrum disorder with three levels of increasing severity.  Despite this, many people still refer to different conditions which fall under the spectrum such as:

  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Rett Syndrome
  • PDD-NOS

Other non-official terms include “mild” and “severe” autism along with “High Functioning Autism” which describes a person with similar but milder symptoms to that of Asperger’s syndrome.

Autism can be extremely challenging for all who are affected, as well as their friends and family. However, with quality support, even severely affected individuals can see substantial improvements in their quality of life.

Encompass Dorset provide care and support services for adults living with enduring mental health illnesses and learning difficulties.

To find out how we can help you or a loved one, click here.

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