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Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Updated: Feb 18

Liam Anderson provides an overview of Autism and explains the signs to promote a better understanding of the condition, also known as ASD.

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Autism, sometimes called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a broad medical term given to a range of behavioural conditions that can affect people in different ways, with various signs.

Autism is regarded as a spectrum condition, which means the presentation and effect of its symptoms vary greatly per person. For example, some autistic people need no support or care – those around may even be surprised by their diagnosis, while others may require constant support from a carer or guardian. 

Autism was first recognised as a neurological condition in the early 20th century. Though there are descriptions of children, now believed to have been autistic, prior to this time, there was no understanding of their differences or what lay behind them.


Many misconceptions about the causes and symptoms of autism prevail to this day. Moreover, as autism can present differently and requires different degrees of support, many autistic people live without a diagnosis.

It is important to note that being autistic is not an illness or a disease, it simply means that your brain works differently to others.

Did you know?                                                                         Worldwide, it is estimated that 1 in 100 children have been diagnosed with Autism. - Wiley

Signs of Autism:


Autistic people may:


·       Find it hard to communicate with others

·       Have difficulty understanding how other people feel

·       Feel anxious in social or generally unfamiliar situations

·       Get overwhelmed by certain stimuli

·       Engage in repetitive actions, language, or thoughts

·       Take slightly longer to process certain types of information

·       Avoid making eye contact when talking to or engaging with others.

·       Be non-verbal

·       Become fixated on specific hobbies, creating a 'spikey profile' with deep knowledge in one area but potential gaps in others.

·      Experience meltdowns or shutdowns due to overstimulation: meltdowns involve a loss of control, while shutdowns may manifest as periods of silence. search function

"The greatest discomfort for autistic people can be the social one. For me, I was confused by the way people behaved." - Chris Packham, CBE, National Autistic Society Ambassador.

The Causes of Autism

Although we still don’t know exactly what causes autism, the research shows that there is not just one cause, and that autism likely develops from a combination of factors.


Some factors have been observed to increase the chance of a child being autistic, though it is very important to note that an increased chance is not the same as a cause. Factors that can lead to an increased chance in autism include:


·       Complications during the birth or pregnancy period

·       Pregnancies that occur within one year of each other


It is now known that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. Although there are some who still advocate for this theory, the science does not support it and it has been repeatedly refuted by numerous studies.

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How Common is Autism


It is estimated that around 1 in 100 children have autism worldwide, but some estimates put the figure much higher. This is because autism is often undiagnosed, particularly in girls and minority ethnic groups.


It was previously believed that autism was more common in men than in women. However, research now suggests that many autistic women and girls are not correctly diagnosed, potentially because autism presents differently in males and females. Further research is likely needed to fully understand these presentational differences.


Autism diagnoses also appear to be lower in minority ethnic groups. This could be due to several factors including differences in healthcare, environmental factors, and cultural perceptions and stigmas surrounding autism.



Researched by Phoebe Agnew-Bass / Editor: Mia Yaffes / Online Editor: Ellis Jackson


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