What is Autism?
At the other end of this rainbow are people who may have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder or High Functioning Autism. These people may have well-developed language, but often lack the understanding of the words they use so freely, i.e., of the communicative intent of language. They may also be functioning at or above their chronological age in some areas of the curriculum.
Every level of intellectual ability is represented on the continuum.
The common factor throughout this variation is the triad of impairment.
1. Impairment of language and communication – including gesture and facial expression. This includes those with apparently well-developed language, who may not always use it for communication and may not interpret our communication in a meaningful way.
2. Impairment of social relationships – particularly, social empathy. This makes all activities with peers difficult – especially playground activities and other less structured times. It also means that autistic people will often assume that, if they know something, everyone knows it. As a result, misunderstandings often ensue.
3. Impairment of flexibility of thought – this is often manifested in a rigidity of thinking and the inability to use imagination in play, reading activities or when watching TV or videos. It reflects a lack of personal empathy or theory of mind and problems with executive function, which governs the organisational part of the brain and inhibitors.
A person with autism will not understand that they and others see the situations differently. They will have no basis for understanding the need to empathise with another's point of view.Challenging behaviour is often the result of these impairments and should not be seen as a challenge to personal authority, but as aiming to express ideas and communicate feelings – often of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. New research suggests that the impairments of autism may be linked to deficits in the sensory system.
The Exploring Autism Web site is the collaborative effort of Autism Genetics Cooperative, a group of researchers and clinicians working with the help of families with children affected by autism to find the genetic causes of autism. These researchers are dedicated to helping families who are living with the challenges of autism by informing them about the exciting breakthroughs involving the genetics of autism. To visit click here.