Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

What is it?

An umbrella term used to describe a group of developmental disorders including Autism and Asperger syndrome, it is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to the world around them.
How may it present?

A child or young person with ASD may present with the following characteristics:

Social Interaction Difficulties

This is when a child/young person has problems recognising or understanding other people’s emotions and feelings, and in expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

They may:

  • Not understand unwritten social rules e.g. they may stand too close to another person or start an inappropriate subject of conversation
  • Appear to be insensitive because they have not recognised how someone else is feeling
  • Prefer to spend time alone
  • Not seek comfort from other people
  • Appear to behave strangely or inappropriately as it is not always easy for them to understand or express feelings, emotions or needs
  • They find it hard to form and maintain friendships. Some may want to interact with others and make friends, but may be unsure how to do this

Social Communication Difficulties

The child/young person has difficulty with verbal and non-verbal language, many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say e.g. its raining cats and dogs

They can find it difficult to use or understand:

  • Facial expressions or tone of voice
  • Jokes and sarcasm
  • Common phrases and sayings e.g. wait a minute
  • May not speak or have limited language
  • Find it hard to understand the give and take nature of conversations
  • Perhaps repeating what the other person has just said
  • Talking at length about their own interests
  • Poor eye contact

Other Related Characteristics

Rigity of Routines

These children/young people can often prefer to have fixed daily routines so they know whats going to happen every day.

Sensory Sensitivity

This can occur in 1 or more of the 5 senses. They are either intensified or under sensitive e.g. may find certain background sounds unbearably loud or distracting, which other people can ignore or block out. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. People who are under sensitive may not feel pain or extremes of temperature. Some may rock, spin or flap their hands to stimulate sensation, to help with balance and posture or to deal with stress.

What to do next?

If you suspect a child may have ASD then you need to:

  • Discuss your concerns with parents and ask them to seek specialist help via their GP e.g. a referral to CAMHS
  • Schools can discuss any concerns they have about a child with their Educational Psychologist