People with ASD will usually have social difficulties, which impacts the way they communicate and interact with others.
This will affect their ability to function socially, whether at school, work, or in other areas of their lives.
They will also often demonstrate repetitive behaviours, as well as limited interests or activities.
Symptoms range from a mild impairment to a severe disability.
There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – which is more than 1 in 100.
When including families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people across the country.
What are the symptoms?
ASD is often identified early on, in babies and toddlers – and school staff can recognise behaviours in older children.
The most common symptoms include:
- Repeating certain behaviour or behaving unusually
- Being overly focused on certain things, such as moving objects or parts of objects
- Having a long-lasting and intense interest in certain topics – especially numbers, details or facts
- Getting upset by a slight change in routine, or being placed in a setting that is new or overly stimulating
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Looking at and listening to people less often
- Responding in an unusual way when people show anger, distress or affection
- Failing at or being slow to respond to someone calling their name, or trying to get their attention with other verbal cues
- Speaking at length about a favourite subject, and not noticing that those around them aren’t interested – or not giving them a chance to respond
- Struggling to keep up with the back and forth of conversations
- Having facial expressions, gestures or movements that don’t match what is being said
- Finding it difficult to understand another person’s point of view, or being unable to understand other people’s actions
- Other common difficulties include being sensitive to light, noise, clothing or temperature.
They may also have trouble with their sleep, have digestion problems and be prone to irritability.
What strengths and abilities do people with ASD have?
Many people with ASD will have certain strengths and abilities, as well as challenges they face on a daily basis.
- Having above-average intelligence
- Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for a long time
- Excelling in maths, science, music or art
How is it diagnosed?
Young children can usually be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by the age of two.
Doctors diagnose the condition by looking at a child’s behaviour and development.
Older children can be evaluated when a parent or teacher raises concerns based on watching them socialize, communicate and play.
Diagnosis becomes more difficult once people reach adulthood, as ASD symptoms can overlap with those of other mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or ADHD.
Getting a correct diagnosis of ASD as an adult can help someone understand the difficulties from their past, work out what their strengths are, and seek the right help.
What is the difference between Asperger’s syndrome and ASD?
Asperger’s syndrome used to be separate from ASD – however, this has now changed.
Those who were previously diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome are now included in the Autism Spectrum Disorder category.
People with Asperger’s syndrome will experience similar difficulties to those with ASD when it comes to social difficulties and struggles with over-stimulating environments.
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