Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a spectrum, and as such it includes a wide range of individuals. For some individuals autism is also accompanied by a learning disability, but others have average or above average intellectual ability.
People with autism include those who need a great deal of support and those who can live independently by managing their lives within the parameters of their own needs. Indeed some people in this latter group may remain unknown to supporters or service providers unless a breakdown occurs in their own managing strategies.
Asperger’s Syndrome is sometimes referred to as high functioning autism or mild autism. While this is understandable it can be misleading as it does not present a true picture of the diagnosis, nor the particular support needs that an individual may have. It is however now agreed that people with this syndrome are part of the autism spectrum. Individuals with Aspergers Syndrome are usually better able to communicate than those with classic autism, by virtue of their language abilities, but still experience some difficulties with social communication and social interactions.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome frequently show a deep interest in a particular subject or hobby, and many have extensive knowledge about it. These interests will often form their preferred topic of conversation, but unless prompted they may be unaware of a need to consider the listener’s level of interest, or to give the listeners a turn to speak.
Where a person with Asperger’s Syndrome has an average or above average intellectual ability, this clear focus of attention can lead to high levels of achievement. Memory, logic and mathematical skills are common, but success can be impeded by an apparent contradictory need for continuing support in social interactions or situation requiring people working together. It can be difficult to recognise and understand a need for social support in individuals who are otherwise high achievers.
With the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives.
Getting a diagnosis
To get a diagnosis of ASD you need to go to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). This is provided through the NHS and you can be referred by your GP or your child’s school. CAMHS provides assessment and treatment services to children and young people aged 0-18 years where there are concerns about their behaviour or emotional wellbeing.