What is Autism?

The term ‘autism’ is long-standing and was first used by Paul Bleuler in 1910 when describing schizophrenia. In 1943, Leo Kanner developed the term further to characterise children with cognitive and affective symptoms, extreme aloneness and the preservation of sameness.

More recently, autism has been referred to as ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ (ASD), first coined by Lorna Wing in 1981, to reflect the diversity of presentations, which is more generally accepted now in the DSM-5. ASD is a complex condition which presents with various difficulties in daily functioning. It often described as a neuro-developmental condition as it indicates impairments in the brain or central nervous system.

ASD is considered a life-long condition with no known cure or universally agreed upon cause. It presents in different ways in an individual’s life and in some cases can be difficult to diagnose. ASD encapsulates a range of different presentations with some individuals being high functioning and others having severe learning difficulties and developmental delay.

Nonetheless, it is fairly well-established that the condition is characterised by a ‘triad of impairments’ which are used to help with diagnosis.

This triad consists of:

  1. Qualitative impairments in reciprocal social interaction (difficulties in social interaction/understanding).
  2. Qualitative impairments in communication.
  3. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities (limited flexibility in thinking).

External link : National Autistic Society

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