We have all heard of autism, and some of us know first-hand what living with autism is like, but what is autism?
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect how a person communicates, socialises, or behaves. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it affects individuals in different ways and to varying degrees. Some people with autism may have mild symptoms, while others may have more severe symptoms.
Autism typically appears in early childhood, and the symptoms can be grouped into two main categories: social communication and repetitive or restricted behaviours and interests.
Every individual with autism is unique, and a diagnosis does not predict an individual’s abilities or potential. In fact, some people with autism embrace their unique strengths and excel in careers and pursuits of their choice, whether that be academic, creative or sporting.
Some common symptoms of autism include:
- Difficulty with social interaction: People with autism may struggle to understand and respond to social cues, such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. They may also have difficulty with developing and maintaining relationships.
- Communication difficulties: People with autism may have difficulty with language development and use, such as delayed speech, echolalia (repeating words or phrases), or difficulty with understanding the meaning of words. They may also have difficulty with nonverbal communication, such as using gestures or facial expressions to convey meaning.
- Repetitive behaviours or interests: People with autism may engage in repetitive behaviours, such as rocking. They may also have restricted interests and may become fixated on a particular topic or activity.
- Sensory sensitivities: People with autism may be sensitive to certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises or certain textures.
The exact cause of autism is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Early diagnosis and intervention can help individuals with autism to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Treatment may include therapies such as behavioural therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
The severity of autism can be described as the level of support an individual requires to manage their symptoms and participate in daily life. Autism severity is typically assessed using standardized measures such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) or the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R).
The severity of autism can be divided into three levels, based on the individual’s level of support needs:
- Level 1: Requiring Support – Individuals with Level 1 autism require some support to manage their symptoms and participate in daily life. They may have difficulties with social communication and interaction, as well as repetitive behaviours or interests. They may also have sensory sensitivities. However, they are typically able to function independently in most areas of daily life.
- Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support – Individuals with Level 2 autism require more substantial support to manage their symptoms and participate in daily life. They may have significant difficulties with social communication and interaction, as well as more severe repetitive behaviours or interests. They may also have more pronounced sensory sensitivities. They may need support in some areas of daily life, such as employment or independent living.
- Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support – Individuals with Level 3 autism require very substantial support to manage their symptoms and participate in daily life. They may have severe difficulties with social communication and interaction, as well as very pronounced repetitive behaviours or interests. They may also have significant sensory sensitivities. They typically require support in most areas of daily life, such as employment, independent living, and personal care.
A person’s level of autism can change over time, and individuals with autism can make substantial progress with the right interventions and support.
Care Squared have a team of allied health clinicians trained in supporting people with autism to improve their quality of life and work toward their NDIS goals. If you, or someone you know, needs a diagnosis or support with interventions, reach out to us. We can put you in contact with the best clinician to help you on your journey.
Published by Kavanna Trewavas