Autism is characterised by observable differences in social communication and behaviour. These emerge from neurological differences in information processing and sensory perception.
The level of support required by individuals varies from complex to subtle, so autism is known as a “spectrum” condition. Some of the more commonly-noticed characteristics include:
- Differences in expressive communication, such as discomfort with eye contact, unusual speech patterns, or difficulty using spoken language at all.
- A systematic, procedural style of thinking and problem-solving.
- Difficulty predicting and interpreting others’ behaviour, understanding the unwritten rules of conversation, friendships, social cues and expectations.
- Sensory issues, such as hypersensitivity to certain sounds, smells, touch, or visual stimuli.
- Strengths in visual-spatial information processing and attention to detail that others may miss.
- Strong preference for routine, engaging in repetitive movements and behaviours, and unusually intense or narrow interests.
- An ability to maintain focus on preferred tasks and topics of interest for extended lengths of time.
- Difficulty interpreting nonverbal communication and abstract or non-literal language.
- A tendency to amass a large body of detailed knowledge related to areas of interest.
Despite the challenges faced by many people on the autism spectrum, they are the same as all people in many ways: every person has strengths, interests, and potential.