Autism overview

Autism is a lifelong condition affecting many areas of development including how a person:

  • communicates with other people
  • relates to other people
  • relates to the World around them.

This is a spectrum condition: while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. 

Terminology: a range of terms can be used, including:

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • autistic spectrum difference
  • neuro-diversity.

Education professionals may prefer the less medical term ‘autism condition’. On this site, ‘autism’ is used throughout, in keeping with recent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

Key points:

  • Autism is lifelong, characterised by:
                  • difficulties with social communication and interaction
                  • restricted and repetitive behaviours or interests
                  • hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input.
  • Difficulties processing the sensory world can affect a person’s ability to communicate and function independently in social situations. This can have a negative impact on education, recreation, employment and social integration.

  • SLTs should be integral members of the multi-agency teams providing support to children and adults with autism.

  • SLTs have a unique role in:
                  • identifying the social and communication characteristics,
                  • contributing to a differential diagnosis of those with autism and in
                  • identifying co-morbidities
                  • training others involved in the care and education of those with autism.

View autism sections:

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Cross-reference with other topic areas:

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