About Autism & Aspergers

About high-functioning autism & Asperger’s syndrome

It is a common misconception that autism/AS only affects boys. This is not the case, girls can have it too but may display it differently. Currently the ratio of boys to girls is 4:1.

High-functioning autism & Asperger’s syndrome are often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’. This means that you cannot tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas, known as the ‘triad of impairments’. They are:

Social Communication

People sometimes find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. They may:

  • have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice
  • have difficulty knowing when to start or end a conversation and choosing topics to talk about
  • use complex words and phrases but may not fully understand what they mean
  • be very literal in what they say and hear and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphors and sarcasm. For example, they may be confused by the phrase ‘That’s cool’ when people use it to say something is good.

In order to help a person understand you, keep your sentences short and to the point.

Social Interaction

Many people want to be sociable but have difficulty with initiating and sustaining social relationships, which can make them very anxious. They may:

  • struggle to make and maintain friendships
  • not understand the unwritten ‘social rules’ that most of us pick up without thinking (eg. they may stand too close to another person, or start an inappropriate topic of conversation)
  • find other people unpredictable and confusing
  • become withdrawn and seem uninterested in other people, appearing almost aloof
  • behave in what may seem an inappropriate manner.

Social Imagination

People can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word. (eg. many are accomplished writers, artists and musicians) but they can have difficulty with social imagination. This can include:

  • imagining alternative outcomes to situations and finding it hard to predict what will happen next
  • understanding or interpreting other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions. The subtle messages that are put across by facial expression and body language are often missed
  • having a limited range of imaginative activities, which can be pursued rigidly and repetitively (eg. lining up toys or collecting and organising things related to his or her interest).

Some children may find it difficult to play ‘let’s pretend’ games or prefer subjects rooted in logic and systems, such as mathematics

As well as the three main areas of difficulty other common characteristics are:

  • love of routines
  • special interests
  • sensory difficulties

For more information please click here

Other related conditions

(Please see ‘Useful Links‘ for more information)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder