Autism Advocacy Network

What is Autism?

Answering the question, what is autism and what is the autism spectrum?

There is not one type of autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that there is a wide range of symptoms, severity, and functional level. People with autism may be high functioning, with mild symptoms, or low functioning, with severe symptoms. Some people with autism are nonverbal, while others speak fluently.

There are several different types of autism, each with its own set of symptoms. The most common form of autism is called autistic disorder, or classical ASD. This is the form of autism that most people are familiar with. People with autistic disorder usually have significant problems with social skills, communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Asperger’s syndrome is another form of autism. People with Asperger’s syndrome typically have fewer problems with social skills and communication than those with autistic disorder. However, they may still have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors.

Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is a diagnosis given to people who meet some but not all the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger’s syndrome. Children with PDD-NOS may have milder symptoms than those with other forms of autism.

Rett syndrome is a rare form of autism that only affects girls. It is characterized by normal early development followed by a period of regression in which the child loses social and communication skills and begins to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) is another rare form of autism characterized by normal early development followed by a period of regression in which the child loses social and communication skills as well as motor skills such as walking and crawling.

Autism Spectrum

In the early years of autism research, the condition was thought to be a single disorder with a very specific set of symptoms. However, as more was learned about autism, it became clear that there was not one “type” of autism, but rather a spectrum of conditions, each with its own range of symptoms. This shift in thinking led to the current understanding of autism as a “spectrum” disorder.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide range of symptoms, abilities, and levels of disability that can occur in people with ASD. Some people with ASD are severely disabled, unable to speak or care for themselves. Others have only mild symptoms and are able to live relatively normal lives.

The term “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) is used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties. ASD includes conditions such as Asperger syndrome, autistic disorder (sometimes called “classic” autism), and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

People with ASD often have difficulty understanding and responding to social cues such as body language and facial expressions. They may also have trouble initiating and sustaining conversations. Many people with ASD have repetitive behaviors or interests such as hand-flapping or spinning objects. Some also have sensory processing issues which can make certain sounds, textures, or lights unbearable for them.

The cause of ASD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Autism Sensory Difficulties

As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) becomes more understood, it is increasingly clear that many people with ASD have difficulties with sensory processing. Sensory processing difficulties can make everyday life a challenge, as simple tasks like getting dressed or going to the grocery store can become overwhelming.

There are a few theories as to why ASD and sensory difficulties so often go hand-in-hand. One theory is that people with ASD have difficulty filtering out information, which can lead to being overloaded by all the sights, sounds, and smells around them. Another theory is that people with ASD may have a different brain structure that causes them to process sensory information differently.

Whatever the cause, there are ways to help people with ASD manage their sensory difficulties. For some, accommodations like noise-canceling headphones or dimmer lights can make a big difference. Others may benefit from occupational therapy or other therapies that help them learn to better process and respond to sensory input.

With more and more people being diagnosed with ASD each year, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that come along with the condition – including sensory processing difficulties. By understanding these challenges and knowing what resources are available, we can help make life a little easier for those with ASD.

Autism Neurodiversity

Autism is part of the diversity of being human.

Autism, once considered a rare and debilitating disorder, is now understood to be a common and diverse neurodevelopmental condition. And, as our understanding of autism has grown, so too has the acceptance of autistic people – from medical professionals and researchers to family members and friends.

This increased understanding and acceptance is largely due to the advocacy of autistic people and their allies, who have worked tirelessly to educate the public about autism and neurodiversity.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects a person’s social interaction, communication, interests, and behaviors. ASD can be mild or severe, and symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

People with ASD often have difficulty understanding social cues and may not pick up on nonverbal communication like eye contact or body language. They may also have difficulty making friends or engaging in small talk. Some people with ASD prefer not to speak at all; others may speak fluently but still have difficulty with back-and-forth conversation.

ASD occurs in all ethnic groups and across all socioeconomic levels. It is estimated that 1 in 59 children are affected by ASD worldwide. And while ASD was once thought to be rare – affecting only about 1% of the population – we now know that it’s actually quite common. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in every 68 children in the United States has some form of ASD.

The increased awareness of ASD is due in large part to better diagnostic tools and methods; however, it’s also likely that more people are being diagnosed with ASD because we are simply becoming more accepting of autistic people and their differences. This increased acceptance is thanks largely to the advocacy work of autistic people and their allies who have worked tirelessly to educate the public about autism spectrum disorder and neurodiversity.

Autistic people have always been here; we just haven’t always been recognized or accepted. But thanks to the efforts of those who champion autism acceptance, we are slowly but surely becoming more visible – and more included – in society at large.


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