A brief summary and glossary
“Autism Spectrum Disorder”, in essence, is a neurological disorder. However, as indicated by its very name, there is no one typical set of personality traits or behaviours that is consistent in everyone diagnosed as having ASD. As Dr. Stephen Shore says: “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism”.
In the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, let’s unpack what we mean when we say “Autism Spectrum Disorder” and go through some commonly used terms to better understand it.
The neurological disorder is characterised by social or communication difficulties, as well as restrictive and repetitive behaviours. Some of the typical traits that people with ASD may exhibit are inhibited gross motor skills, cognitive impairments, slow speech in childhood, challenging behaviours, difficulties socialising and sensitivity to sensory stimuli. However, some people with ASD are very high functioning and can exhibit above average IQ. With support, early intervention and persistence, skills and behaviours can and do improve.
Here are some quick definitions of terms often used in relation to ASD
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Therapy: an intervention therapy which reinforces wanted behaviours and discourages unwanted behaviours
Asperger’s disorder/syndrome: one form of ASD charactarised by a typical IQ, but difficulties in social interactions and communication
High functioning autism: those with ASD with a typical/ near-typical IQ
Joint attention: the ability to share eye contact, follow another’s gaze and collectively look at an object or activity together
Mainstreaming: the concept that students with ASD should be integrated with neurotypical students as much as possible to aid development
Neurotypical (NT): people that are considered typical, that is, those that do not have ASD. Otherwise known as “allist”
Stimulatory behaviour (Stimming): repetitive behaviours, often when over-stimulated, for example hand flapping
For a comprehensive glossary, and for other helpful resources, see the Autism Awareness website here: https://www.autismawareness.com.au/