Autism

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways and with varying severities. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

Asperger syndrome is a mild form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

Causes
The causes of autism are still being investigated. Many experts believe that the pattern of behaviour from which autism is diagnosed may not result from a single cause. There is strong evidence to suggest that autism can be caused by a variety of physical factors, all of which affect brain development - it is not due to emotional deprivation or the way a person has been brought up.

There is evidence to suggest that genetic factors are responsible for some forms of autism. Scientists have been attempting to identify which genes might be implicated in autism for some years.

Autism is likely to have multiple genes responsible rather than a single gene. The difficulty of establishing gene involvement is compounded by the interaction of genes and by their interaction with environmental factors.

Treatment
There is no known 'cure' for autism. This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done for a person with autism. There is a growing movement among adults with autism who don't think in terms of 'curing' autism but, instead, of celebrating difference.

Autism impairments can be managed in varying different ways depending on severity and the individual patient. Therein lies most of the difficulty in understanding the autism spectrum. What works for one person with autism may not work for another and may even affect them in an adverse way.

Sourced from The National Autistic Society.

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists