What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a lifelong condition that affects the development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication. People with autism have difficulties in communicating and forming relationships with people, in developing language and in using abstract concepts. It also impacts on a person’s ability to make sense of the world around them.
It is important to recognize that ASD is often referred to as a “hidden” condition because people with ASD show no significant physical differences, rather it is their behaviours that mark them out as different. In instances where those behaviours are more obvious, ASD will be diagnosed in early childhood. However, in some instances, ASD may not be identified until a child enters primary school, when demands and expectations increase socially. And still others may not be diagnosed until adulthood.
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because of the huge variation in how it looks for each individual. Two individuals with the same diagnosis could have very different skills, abilities, and interests. Because of this, it is impossible to say what supports someone will need, or how independent they may be based on the diagnosis alone. Some individuals with autism will grow up to attend further education, live independently, and have families of their own; others will require substantial support for their whole lives.
Although autism is a lifelong condition, we are constantly learning more and more effective ways of supporting individuals with ASD. This involves both strategies to help individuals with ASD learn to better communicate, interact, and cope with the challenges of ASD, as well as finding things that we can do as a community to be more understanding and inclusive. it is important to remember that every person with ASD can make progress with the right interventions, opportunities, and family supports.