Have you ever watched The Big Bang Theory? Dr Sheldon Cooper is likely to be one of the first people with autism you’ve identified.
Perhaps you have already heard about autism, a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people communicate with others, and the way they behave. The current estimate is that autism affects 1 in 59 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Therefore, you have probably met at least one person who has autism.
Autism is not a disease, and the word ‘autistic’ does not mean that the people are in any way defective. In the same way that all people are different in their character and behaviour, autism simply groups people who perceive the world in a markedly different way to you. It does not mean it is wrong. The truth is that most people with autism are just like you, they just have a few “peculiarities”.
There is a lot of misinformation in the literature and the media about the way people with autism behave and how they should be treated. The purpose of this resource is to provide objective information about the nature of autism and a subjective experience of what it means to be on the autism spectrum, from someone who experiences it in everyday life. Hopefully, this resource will encourage your interest in autism and autism research, help you to build empathy for someone on the spectrum, and contribute towards building a kinder society.
Main characteristics of Autism
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others (National Autistic Society). It is sometimes referred to as a spectrum, because it can present itself differently in different people and this will influence the types of support they require. Some people might have poor verbal abilities and communicate with other people very little (making the autism more ‘obvious’) while others might have severe but invisible sensory difficulties, such as being extremely sensitive to light and sound. Never does the fact that they have autism predict their level of intelligence or the ability to succeed in life – many have successful careers, and some were or are very influential figures in society – e.g. Albert Einstein.
This resource aims to:
1. Introduce you to the biology of autism
2. Cover some of the key behavioural characteristics of autism
3. Provide a practical guide on autism
4. Discuss how autism affects females, including a personal account from the author