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What is Autism?

If you or a someone close to you has recently been diagnosed or referred for an assessment, it it likely that you may be wondering ”What exactly is autism?” 

You may have heard or read about ”ASD….Autism Spectrum Disorder…Aspergers Syndrome…level of functioning…” and much more. There is a lot of information available on the topic of autism, but not all of it is entirely accurate. 

At GAP, we believe that autism is a neurological difference that a person is born with that means that they think, communicate, learn and interacts with the world around them in their own unique way. Autism is an invisible disability, meaning that it is not always apparent if someone is autistic or not. 

Every autistic person will have a differing abilities and needs throughout their lifetime and in different situations. 

Autism is not rare or uncommon; in fact, recent research suggests that 1 in 65 secondary school students in Ireland now have an autism diagnosis (NCSE, 2015)

Some medical professionals and academics define autism differently; for example, under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for autism it is defined through impairments such as ”Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction” and ”Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities”.

At GAP, we feel it is more beneficial to understand autistic people through their difference and individual qualities rather than through a check list of impairments. Many autistic people advocate for a change in attitudes and treatment of their community by medical practitioners and academic researchers, and the language of impairments is seen as harmful, unhelpful and unnecessary. 

Regardless of the definition used, autistic people generally experience differences in the following areas: 

  • Communication and social interaction 
  • Sensory processing 
  • Preferred interests, activities and hobbies