Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
It is a spectrum condition - the word 'spectrum' is used because, while all people with autism share three main areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in very different ways: some are able to live relatively 'everyday' lives; others will also have learning difficulties and require a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:
• difficulty with social communication
• difficulty with social interaction
• difficulty with social imagination
Asperger syndrome is term used to describe a form of autism, although it is generally now not given as a diagnosis. Again, there are a spectrum of differences, but generally people with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average, or above average, intelligence.
They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism, but they may have specific learning difficulties, which may include dyslexia and dyspraxia or other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy.
With the right support and encouragement, many people with ASDs can lead full and independent lives. For more information please visit the NAS website.