In producing this consultation we recognise that there are a number of terms that different individuals and groups prefer to use, including autistic spectrum disorder, autistic spectrum condition, autistic spectrum difference and neuro-diversity. This consultation uses the term autistic spectrum condition (ASC).
An ASC is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them. The word 'spectrum' is used because the characteristics of the condition vary from one person to another.
The three main areas of difficulty, which all people with an ASC share, are known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are difficulties with:
- social communication (e.g. problems using and understanding verbal and non-verbal language, such as gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice)
- social interaction (e.g. problems in recognising and understanding other people’s feelings and managing their own)
- social imagination (e.g. problems in understanding and predicting other people’s intentions and behaviour and imagining situations outside of their own routine)
Many people with an ASC may experience some form of sensory sensitivity or under-sensitivity, for example to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. People with an ASC often prefer to have a fixed routine and can be adverse to change. Many people with an ASC may also have a co-morbid condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyspraxia.
Asperger syndrome is a form of ASCs. People with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking than others on the autism spectrum and are often of average or above average intelligence.
It can be hard to create awareness of ASC as people with the condition often have no obvious disability – many adults find that they are misunderstood. Some individuals will not want to have their condition recognised, but their need for support may be great. In such cases, parents and other relatives often provide the care and support needed and this can lead to further stresses within the home and for all concerned.