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Understanding the Autism Spectrum

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects the way an individual understands and interacts with his or her environment.

What is the Spectrum?

The autism spectrum is not linear, but rather a spectrum that contains the range of difficulties that an autistic person might experience and the degree in which they may experience it. Each autistic person is individual and some may experience more difficulties in a higher degree than others.

What Difficulties May Those with Autism Experience?

There is no key list of difficulties that those with autism will experience as each autistic person will vary with the challenges they may face. Some common examples include:

  • Social interaction: Those with autism can find it difficult to interact socially
  • Restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests: Autistic people may find it difficult to see beyond their own fixated interests and behaviours. This can limit their experiences with the world as they are tied down by needing to repeat the same thing every day or having a vast knowledge on a particular subject but not being able to articulate or communicate knowledge about other subjects.

Is Asperger’s Different to Autism?

Asperger’s is now classed as and diagnosed under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are many adults who were given the diagnosis of Asperger’s, but those diagnosed past 2013 are more likely to be given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. In the past Asperger’s was seen as a ‘milder’ case of autism, with varying strengths and weaknesses. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s may:

  • Find it difficult to interpret other people’s emotions. They find it hard to understand body language or subtle emotive cues.
  • Be unable to empathise with others
  • Face extreme anxiety when their schedule is mixed or changed

How Can You Deal with the Individual Needs of an Autistic Person?

As autism has such a broad spectrum, it’s important not to generalise and understand the specific needs of the person in your care. The uniqueness of that person should be embraced as well as understood. No autistic person is the same and education is the key to dealing with an autistic person’s needs.

What Is Savant Syndrome and How Does It Relate to Those with Autism?

Some people with Autism may have savant syndrome. Savant syndrome is not a mental disorder in itself but rather a syndrome that some Autistic people may face. To be a savant is to have exceptional skill or talent in one area. An example might be that someone may have a lower than average IQ but an ability to mentally calculate equations or remember facts on any given topic that is well above the norm. Almost half of people with savant syndrome are autistic.

Those with autism can bring great joy into your life. Equally, understanding the spectrum and forming a relationship with an autistic individual can be an enlightening and joyous experience. If you’re interested in pursuing a career that involves helping those with ASD, consider disability work or upskilling your current qualifications. Explore National College Australia’s programmes here.

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