Understanding Autism

By April 3, 2019News

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/

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Avatar Ross Erwin says:

    I look after a 8year old boy every Saturday afternoon for 3 hours which is respite for his parents,he has severe autism,he is mute,or cannot speak and never will,he makes noises and laughs when I presume he is happy,he has challenging behavioral swings,he also does hand flapping,although he understands every thing I say,He has an insatiable appetite also,I had cared for one other autistic boy who was 19 years of age before but only for a short time,I have learnt a lot just by spending time with this 8 year old boy weekly,he has become familiar and recognizable with me,but things can change in an instant with him,I would appreciate any information about autism that you can provide me as to help me help children and older ages with autism spectron disorder.thank you ross Erwin.

    • Avatar Simone Kealy says:

      Hi Ross,

      You do very noble work and it sounds like you are very good at creating trust and positive bonds with those you help.
      We find the Autism Awareness website a valuable resource when it comes to all things ASD, and the following page in particular is helpful when learning about different life stages. It also has a link to even more resources you might find helpful: https://www.autismawareness.com.au/life-stages/

      Thank you for sharing with us, we hope this helps!
      Afea Care Services.

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