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What is Autism?

Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Condition or ASC (see Terminology) is a lifelong developmental condition characterised by difficulties in three areas, often referred to as ‘the triad’:

  • Social interaction, including difficulties relating to others, sharing & forming relationships.

  • Social communication, including difficulties interpreting & expressing verbal & non-verbal communication.

  • Imagination & social understanding, including difficulties with imaginative play, pretending, planning ahead & a tendency to focus on the details of a situation at the expense of a broader understanding.


Activities, thinking patterns or interests that are unusual in their intensity or focus are also common in autistic individuals.


Autistic Spectrum Conditions affect people in different ways & to varying degrees of severity, however, sensory perception & motor anomalies or difficulties are almost always experienced. The way an autistic individual presents will depend on many factors, including the severity of their experience of the autism triad, the effects of any additional learning disability or condition, & their own individual, unique personality.

Asperger’s Syndrome was previously used to describe someone who is autistic with a high intellect & who experienced no language difficulties or delays in childhood. However, due to changing diagnostic practice, the use of this term is reducing.


1 in every 100 individuals is believed to be autistic (Office for National Statistics), with more males than females diagnosed. The exact causes are unknown however, it has been recognised that environmental & genetic factors are involved in causing the changes in brain function which produce symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Conditions.


Although being autistic can come with its challenges for individuals & their families, it comes with many strengths & an ability to think differently.  We all have our own challenges as human beings & with the right support & encouragement we can live happy & fulfilling lives.

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A-ND recognises that autistic individuals can face challenges as they become involved in the social life of the home, education, employment & community. It is our belief that we all have a positive contribution to make.  Often, the wider community need support to think differently & support autistic individuals fulfil their full potential. A key part of this support lies in the terminology used. 

There are a number of different terms used to describe autistic people & autism.

Medical Diagnosis:

A-ND acknowledges that there are various terms used to describe autism. These terms are made within a clinical context which is understood by the clinicians; however, they may have a different meaning for those who do not have this background. The term “Autism Spectrum Condition” (ASC) retains the link with a medical diagnosis whilst providing a positive understanding of the person who is on the autism spectrum.

Description of the Individual:

The phrase “autism spectrum” reflects the range of abilities & behaviours displayed by individuals with a diagnosis. It is an indication that strategies which can be effective with one person may not be effective with another. A-ND uses person first language, i.e. "John is autistic", supported by the majority of the people we support, our members & community.  On seeking autistic individual views, one comment stood out;

"Saying I have autism is like saying I have gay. It does not make sense. I am gay, so therefore I am autistic."

Direct Quotations:

It is important to include stories of autistic individuals (those with lived experience), as this is often a source of encouragement & hope to other autistic individuals & their families. When lived experienced stories are used by A-ND, the individuals own words & actual terms used will be provided in the reports & not altered. In such situations, the terminology being used may be useful to the individual in defining themselves or their family member. It may also reflect the year or decade a diagnosis was made & the language used at that time.

The aim of A-ND is to respect individuals own words, preferences & diversity, promoting a positive image of those who have lived experience & the contribution they make to the wider community.


Self-Directed Support

A-ND can offer services to individuals who are looking to purchase support through Self-Directed Support funding. Individuals who wish to discuss any aspect of what support is available, as well as exploring & agreeing the aims & objectives of support can do so prior to entering into a formal agreement with A-ND.

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