- Autism (sometimes referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD)) is a life-long disability that is normally diagnosed in early childhood.
- People with autism have difficulties communicating, forming relationships with others and find it hard to make sense of the world around them, which can lead to heightened anxiety levels.
- The autism spectrum is very broad, varying in severity and impact from individual to individual. Some people have no speech and severe learning disabilities. Other people on the spectrum have very good or even advanced speech and language skills but find the rules governing social behaviour hard to fathom.
- People with autism may also have unusual patterns of language development, narrow interests and engage in repetitive and sometimes challenging behaviours. But it can also give people advantages, such as in memory and attention to detail.
- Some people with autism have additional medical conditions such as epilepsy, sleep difficulties and mental health problems. They may also demonstrate significantly challenging behaviours; most need specialist support and care.
- First identified more than 50 years ago, autism affects one percent of UK children and adults and is one of the most common developmental disorders.
- Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
- Autism affects people of all racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
All children with autism experience difficulties with:
- Social interaction
- Verbal and non-verbal communication
- Repetitive behaviours or interests
In addition, they will often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each of these symptoms will run the gamut from mild to severe and they will present in each individual child differently. Autism can affect children with any level of intellectual ability, from those who are profoundly learning disabled, to those with average or high intelligence.
Although there are many concerns about labelling a young child with ASD, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier needed interventions can begin.
Most children at Puzzle Centre have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. However, some children will have other kinds of communication difficulty or may not yet have received a formal diagnosis.