There are lots of terms used to describe the Autism Spectrum

Autism

Asperger Syndrome

High functioning autism

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Condition

I AM will be using the term Autism Spectrum Condition to cover all of the terms above. They all refer to people who have differences in three main areas:

1. Communication differences

2. Social interaction differences

3. Imagination differences

People can also have differences in the way they sense things. For example being over or under sensitive to pain, touch, lights, noise, smells and taste.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition. It’s important to remember that although everyone with a diagnosis will have differences in all of the above areas, the differences will affect people in different ways and may cause more problems in one area of difference for one person than others.

Some autistic people might have more issues as a result of their communication differences, others may find the social interaction differences are more of a problem and for others the imagination differences may be the most difficult.

Having a diagnosis of autism should not be the most important and defining thing about a person. Every person with autism is an individual and everyone is unique.

Although the differences of autism can cause problems they can also have some very positive effects.  Autistic people are often described as

Punctual.

Honest.

Loyal.

Determined.

Dedicated (often being very knowledgeable about their particular area of interest, which can be a positive trait with regard to employment.)

Good at collecting things.

Good at following rules.

Strong sense of fairness.

Strong visual memory, particularly for past events and places and pictures.

Excellent long-term memory skills.  This can often be with a talent for remembering dates or factual information.

A good knowledge of the exact meaning of words, and a very good vocabulary.

Strong abilities with computers, mathematics, art or music.

Communication differences

These can include:

Misunderstanding or misinterpreting what others say.

Having very literal understanding.

Difficulty putting things into words – particularly feelings.

Not noticing non-verbal communication such as tone of voice, facial expression or gesture.

These differences can lead to difficulties understanding jokes or recognising sarcasm and can lead to the person feeling they don’t understand others and others don’t understand them. This can be very frustrating.

Autistic people may also use rather formal language and have an extensive vocabulary of long and technical words. This can have positive effects (e.g. for English writing at school) but can cause problems (communication can come across as overly pedantic).

Social Interaction Differences

Autistic people can struggle with:

Knowing how to start and end a conversation.

Making eye contact.

Fitting in with groups of people.

Meeting new people or making friends.

These differences can lead to difficulties getting on with other people and with making and keeping friends. Being in a group can be more difficult than being with one other person – which can make team games and activities hard. This can lead to anxiety about being into social situations particularly with new or unfamiliar people.

Imagination differences

These can include:

Preferring a predictable routine.

Finding change difficult.

Having particular interests and preoccupations.

Finding it hard to understand abstract concepts.

They can make it difficult to cope with changes to routine or new situations.  Finding it hard to imagine can mean that it is difficult to make choices or decisions.  It may be hard to understand that other people do not share the same interests or have the same point of view.  It can be particularly difficult to not know what is happening or when and to wait for things.

Sensory differences

Autistic people can:

Find it difficult to be in noisy, busy places.

Be sensitive to bright lights.

Be very sensitive to touch and not liking physical touch e.g. hugs.

Be sensitive to smells and tastes.

Not like the textures or colours of certain foods.

This can make it difficult to be in certain environments like shopping centres and supermarkets, particularly at busy times. For children school can be difficult, especially the playground and busy corridors at the start and end of lessons. Sensitivities to smells, tastes and textures of food can lead to eating a restricted diet and cause problems when going out for meals for example, to cafes or other people’s houses.

If you want to find out more or talk to us about anything you’ve read on here, email us on admin@i-am-autism.org.uk or call 0161 866 8483.