Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) (including Asperger Syndrome) are lifelong conditions which affect the way people communicate and interact with other people. People use lots of different terms to refer to ASC, including “Autism”, “Autism Spectrum Disorder”, “Childhood Autism”, “High Functioning Autism”, and “Asperger Syndrome”. We use the DSM-5 (a diagnostic manual which specifies criteria for diagnosing different mental health conditions) and it uses the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. We are keen to recognise the strengths of an individual as well as their difficulties so have chosen to use “Condition” rather than disorder in most of our work.
ASC is not something which can be caught and it is something a person is born with. Once a diagnosis of ASC is given this stays with a person throughout their life, although the difficulties associated with it might be more or less noticeable at different times and in different situations.
To be diagnosed with ASC there has to be evidence of ongoing difficulties with social communication and social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. These difficulties have to have been present since childhood but it might be the case that the difficulties weren’t thought to be linked to ASC until later. The difficulties have to limit or impair someone’s everyday functioning.
Some examples of the difficulties a person with ASC might have are given below. It is important to remember that ASC affects everyone differently and that no two people with ASC are the same.
Difficulties with social communication: finding understanding non-verbal communication (facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice) hard to use and interpret; having a literal understanding of language; finding jokes and sarcasm hard to understand; finding the give-and-take of conversation challenging.
Difficulties with social interaction: finding understanding the emotions of other people difficult and struggling to understand their own emotions; finding friendships and other social relationships challenging.
Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour: preferring things to be done the same way each time (e.g. taking the same route to school, insisting on the same evening routine); struggling with change (often particularly when it’s unexpected, such as having a substitute teacher at school).
Restricted and repetitive interests and activities: having very intense interests that dominate the person’s time and may interfere with other aspects of their life. These interests can be appropriate for the person’s age or they can be unusual for the person’s age, but more intense that you would generally expect an interest to be.
Sensory sensitivities and interests: particularly disliking certain types of sensory information (e.g. the sensation of particular fabrics in clothes) or seeking out sensory stimulation (e.g. the feeling of deep pressure).
- The National Autistic Society (NAS) have many useful pages explaining more about ASC, including understanding Autism, understanding Asperger Syndrome, information about the process of diagnosing ASC, managing family life with ASC, and managing difficult behaviour.
- Autism Hampshire have a wealth of information about services in Hampshire for children, young people, families, and adults with ASC.
- Autism Berkshire have a wealth of information about services in Hampshire for children, young people, families, and adults with ASC.