Research suggests that currently 1.1% of the population have a diagnosis of autism. This statistic does not take into account the number of people whom may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Recent studies show that more males than females have a diagnosis of autism at a ratio of 4:1. Current and ongoing research questions this statistic, suggesting that maybe females present in a different way to males.

Historically the focus has been on the ‘impairments’ and deficits of individuals with autism, instead of looking at the vast collection of skills many individuals have. For example someone who has an eye for detail and is able to focus on the smaller parts as opposed to the whole could make a fantastic proof reader. A young person who relies heavily on structure and routine would be a reliable and punctual employee.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects people in four key areas:

  • Communication Differences 
  • Processing Differences 
  • Social Understanding 
  • Sensory Differences

Autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum condition’ which means that the core features of autism will impact differently on each individual. For example two young men may both have ‘differences in communication’ one of them may speak articulately and fluently, but understand very little, whereas the other may only speak in single words and understand much more.

Autism is often referred to as ‘low functioning autism' and 'high functioning autism' or Asperger’s Syndrome. The main difference between the two is that someone with high functioning autism, will have an average or above IQ and will have language. The core features of autism will still affect the individual and the idea that individuals with high functioning autism need less support is inaccurate.

Communication Differences

This difference may affect:

  • Body language & facial expression
  • Eye contact 
  • Humour and sarcasm 
  • Starting, maintaining and finishing conversations
  • Use of communication aids

Social Understanding

This may affect understanding of:

  • Social contexts 
  • Other people’s thoughts and intentions
  • Own and other people’s emotions 
  • Friendships and relationships

Processing Differences

This may affect:

  • How someone transfers skills from one context to another
  • How someone uses unstructured time 
  • Flexible problem solving 
  • How well someone predicts outcomes
  • How someone adapts to change
  • The ability to multi task 
  • How much processing time someone needs

Sensory Differences

As soon as we arrive in the world, our senses shape our experiences. It is our senses that help us make sense of the world around us. For many people with autism, their senses work differently and this can make the world a confusing and sometime painful place.

Some of the most common differences are:

  • Sensitivity (over or under sensitive)
  • Sensory overload
  • Fragmented perception
  • Delayed perception
  • Distorted perception
  • Sensory shutdowns 

Autism can often exist with other conditions including:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Dyslexia
  • Anxiety Disorders 
  • Mental health concerns 
  • Pathological Demand Avoidance

There are three cognitive theories which have dominated the psychological world of autism:

  • Theory of mind
  • Executive Functioning 
  • Weak Central Coherence