What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a range of similar conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect a person’s social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three.
It’s estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.
There’s no “cure” for ASD, but speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions are available to help children and parents.
Autism is not a learning disability, but around half of the people with autism may also have a learning disability, which will affect the level of support they need in their life.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.
What causes ASD?
The exact cause of ASD is unknown, but it’s thought that several complex genetic and environmental factors are involved.
In the past, some people believed the MMR vaccine caused ASD, but this has been investigated extensively in a number of major studies around the world, involving millions of children, and researchers have found no evidence of a link between MMR and ASD.