Autism is a neuro developmental disorder, it is a lifelong disability, people with autism have a triad of impairements - social interaction, social communication and imagination.
There are those who have seen the classic film, the 'Rain Man' with Dustin Hoffman and Tome Cruise. The film focuses on the character played so brilliantly by Dustin Hofman - an 'Autistic Savant' who is gifted in mathematics. But this is only one aspect of autism.
Autism is a very large spectrum. Not everyone is blessed with the gift of Mathematics, Art or Creativity. There are those who are mildly autistic, others are very severe. Some autistic people who are high functioning autists have the gift of speech others don't talk at all. There are autistic children who have communication disorders - they need help and support - these children need specialist speech therapy.
Common Characteristics of Autism
Autistic children and adults may or may not have speech, quite often the speech is delayed, they make non-speech sounds (e.g. mmmmmm) echolalia - mimicing words without understanding what the word means - they may mimic words from the TV for example.)
Lack of eye contact, they appear to be unaware of people around them, no real interaction with peers - in the classroom or at home, sometimes they treat people as objects, parallel play rather than playing with children, sometimes lack of imaginative play.
They don't like being cuddled or being picked up, hand movements, flapping of hands especially when they are over stimulated or particularly excited about something, spinning, balancing, sometimes they might tiptoe when walking, repetitive behaviour - they might re-wind a video and watch it several times - over and over again, lining up things like toys, self-injury - some children bang their head on the wall, they do not like a change of routine.
Some autistic children and adults don't like being touched, they might not like certain textures or sounds, they might cover their ears at very loud noises, they tend to blank out certain things, they appear to be uncomfortable at very extreme temperatures, they are either very passive or very active sometimes even hyperactive.
Some autistic children and adults love drawing, some can be musical, like numbers - mathematics, good memory, skilled at using computers, computer games, using complex video/audio equipment around the house or in the office or in school.
Autistic children and adults may get up several times in the night - parents suffer from sleep deprivation. Serotonin levels may be high, some children suffer epilepsy, others may have dyslexia, dyspraxia. Many children suffer from bowel problems - there seems to be a connection between a leaky gut and autism. Some may suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
What are the Causes of Autism?
Scientists are still divided as to the causes of autism. Parents, Carers and Autists have not been given a definite answer whether autism has been caused by the MMR vaccination, whether there is a genetic disposition, whether it is caused by foetal distress at birth or whether environmental factors play a role where Autism is concerned. We need answers. We also need public services in health, education, respite care and specialist speech therapy for all people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome.