Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. Individuals on the autism spectrum vary enormously from each other but they all share the two 'core' features of autism:
• persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, they may find it hard to begin or carry on a conversation, they may not understand social rules such as how far to stand from somebody else, or they may find it difficult to make friends.
• Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. For example, they may develop an overwhelming interest in something, they may follow inflexible routines or rituals, they may make repetitive body movements, or they may be hypersensitive to certain sounds.
However many people on the autism spectrum also have significant strengths. These may include a good eye for detail, a high level of accuracy and reliability, an excellent memory for facts and figures, and the ability to thrive in a structured, well-organised work environment. Some also have considerable creative talent. Because of this, some autistic individuals do not consider autism to be a disability but a neurological difference.
Individuals on the autism spectrum often have other conditions, such as sensory sensitivity, epilepsy and gastrointestinal problems. They may also have mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Some, but not all, will behave in difficult and challenging ways.
Because of these problems, autistic people often struggle to make friends, do well at school, or find appropriate jobs. However, with the right help tailored to the needs of the individual person, some autistic people can lead relatively independent lives. Others will continue to need support and understanding throughout their lives.
We believe wholeheartedly in the value of people on the autism spectrum and the contribution they can make to the community. We also appreciate the real difficulties they face and their need for the right support. We seek to encourage and evaluate those interventions which will alleviate distress and promote independence leading to more fulfilling lives.