Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference meaning that people are born autistic – although autism is not always picked up in childhood. Autistic people can be any gender or from any background and heritage.
Although autistic people share a number of strengths and also challenges, it is important to remember “when you have met one autistic person, you have only met one autistic person.
Autistic people differ from neurotypical (non-autistic) people in various ways. These include:
- Friendships and relationships – these can be more difficult for the autistic person or they may have their own preferred way to connect with other people (for example, over shared interests or passions). It is not true to say that autistic people do not or cannot make friends or have partners.
- Communication – autistic people may find everyday communication more complex. Sometimes this difference is very evident. Sometimes it can be more subtle and the autistic person may learn ways of camouflaging the aspects of communication that they find more challenging. Autistic people may communicate in their own way – sometimes, speaking out loud may be overwhelming but communication is still possible with the right support and understanding. Sometimes, autistic people may be gifted at writing and this may be how they are best able to express themselves.
- Autistic people may have a strong preference for sameness. This might be observed in their daily routine, for example, what they prefer to eat, wear, arrange their environment or how they like to spend their time. Autistic people may find repetitive experience soothing – some autistic people make repeated movements to help them feel calm or focus when the world around them feels overwhelming.
- Autistic people often have a capacity to develop real interest and sometimes, in fact, expertise. The things that autistic people can feel passionate about are as diverse as autistic people themselves. Autistic people may be noticed to hyper-focus on things that capture their attention. However, concentrating on every day, less stimulating tasks may be much more challenging. Autism can impact on someone’s ability to organize themselves and tasks that neurotypical people consider common-place can be stressful for an autistic person.
- Autistic people usually process sensory information differently, compared to the neurotypical population. An autistic person can be either hyper-sensitive or under-sensitive to sensory stimuli. This difference can affect all of the senses, including internal senses (like hunger and thirst). Sensory sensitivity can contribute to an autistic person’s creativity and appreciation of the world around them but it can also be exhausting and impact on mental and physical well-being. Autistic people generally find life much more comfortable and productive when their sensory needs are understood
- Autistic people may also have physical differences that impact upon their health (or may conversely mean that they have particular special abilities). We know that if you are hypermobile, for example, you are at least seven times more likely to be autistic!
- Autistic people may be more likely to have additional learning differences / neurodivergent conditions such as dyspraxia, dyslexia and dyscalculia. There are many autistic people who also have ADHD
For more information about autism and asperger syndrome and the support available to you through the Neurodevelopmental service please click here.