What is Autism?

What is Autism?

What is Autism?

You may have heard the saying “If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.”

Autism is a developmental disability – a condition that affects the way a person thinks, learns, behaves, and communicates. It’s also a spectrum disorder – which means people with autism can experience life very differently from one person to the next.

Generally speaking, individuals with autism may struggle to communicate and socialize; they may also experience repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping or body rocking.

In some cases, behaviors may be more severe and can become aggressive or self-injurious — behaviors that in many instances, can be linked back to those difficulties communicating what they want or need.

Just as the characteristics of a person with autism vary greatly from one person to the next – so does the level of independence among individuals. Many function independently, with minimal support, and going through their lives in typical educational and work settings.

Other individuals need a greater level of support — and many seek the help of organizations like Bancroft, supported and encouraged in every walk of life by direct support professionals, therapists and others who assist the students, children, men and women we serve to learn how to live life as independently as possible and empower them to realize their best life.

It is a lifelong condition.

Signs of Autism in Children May Include:

  • Echolalia, or repeating words or phrases at random out of context
  • Incorrect use of pronouns (e.g., saying “he” instead of “me”)
  • Parallel play, or playing next to other children on their own, but not engaging in joint play
  • Minimal to no interest in engaging with other children 
  • Unusual eye gaze (e.g., looking at someone out of the corner of their eye) or no eye contact
  • Inflexible adherence to routines and distress at small changes (e.g., wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants in warm weather)
  • Rigid thinking patterns and insistence on following rules
  • Pica or mouthing inedible objects
  • Visual inspection of objects (e.g., inspecting the wheels of a toy car as they roll)
  • Unusual speech (e.g., speaking in a flat tone or a sing-sing tone)
  • Use of non-speech vocalizations (e.g., making vowel sounds repeatedly)
  • Unawareness of the presence of other people
  • Repetitive motor movements such as spinning in circles or hand flapping
  • Repetitive actions (e.g., watching the same video over and over; preferring to line up or sort toys as opposed to using their imagination or acting out stories)
  • Sensory abnormalities (e.g., covering their ears or attempting to run away in response to loud sounds; high pain tolerance)
  • Sensory-seeking behavior (e.g., rubbing their face on certain textures)
  • Self-injurious behavior (e.g., head-banging)

Signs of Autism in Adults May Include:

  • Problems engaging in back-and-forth conversation
  • Difficulties initiating conversations or social interactions with peers
  • Trouble reading social situations
  • Trouble understanding emotions in others (e.g., reading others’ facial expressions)
  • Trouble taking another person’s perspective
  • Difficulty saying how they feel
  • Problems following common social etiquette
  • Having interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Difficulties making and/or maintaining friendships
  • Inflexible adherence to routines and distress at small changes (e.g. wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants in warm weather); perfectionistic tendencies
  • Taking communication literally and problems understanding sarcasm or innuendos
  • Reduced eye contact
  • Noticing fine details that other people would not notice

While many people with autism have significant cognitive impairments, some are gifted and have above-average IQs. Sometimes autism is accompanied by remarkable or prodigious skills, for example, in math, art, memory, or music.

Autism affects all demographics, although men are four times as likely to be diagnosed as women. There is no single cause or cure, but most research suggests there is a genetic component to autism. The theory populated in the late 1990’s that autism is caused by vaccines has been disproven many times over: vaccines do not cause autism.

Supporting people diagnosed with autism is demanding and impactful work. No two days are the same, but intervention services can make a real difference by helping people with autism build life skills and live rewarding and enriched lives.

If you’re seeking an assessment or diagnosis, learn more about Bancroft’s Diagnostic services.


Related Articles

with Bancroft

The #GivingTuesday movement was created to unite us all in a day of generosity, to make a difference in the world through donations to organizations we care about at the start of the holiday season.