What is autism?
Autism is a cognitive style.
There are many cognitive styles because how we humans think and perceive the world varies naturally.
If your cognitive style meets the societal standards of “normal” you're called neurotypical.
Being autistic means that we perceive the world and interact with others differently than someone who isn’t autistic. We’re born autistic, and we’re always going to be autistic. You can’t cure it as it’s not a disease, it’s a fundamental part of us.
While some autistic people have medical conditions, these are potential things that happen to people and they don’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with being autistic.
Autism is a spectrum; this means that each of us experiences the world differently, even though we still share some experiences.
What does “Autism Spectrum” mean?
All our brains process information a little differently.
Some ways can be useful and others can cause difficulty.
By “spectrum” we mean that there is a range of ways our brains process information; meaning we all experience the world a little differently, even though we still share some experiences.
Our brains can also process information differently at different times. This can mean some of us can be fine in certain situations but not in others.
How is autism diagnosed?
Doctors use a list of possible traits to decide if someone is autistic. These are found in:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
Sadly not everyone who is autistic meets these criteria. This is because understanding of autism varies between doctors.
We autistic people may:
communicate and interact in ways others aren't used to,
have interests others don’t understand,
enjoy doing things the same way every time
our senses can interpret the world in amazing and confusing ways.
What causes autism?
What makes us autistic is currently unknown.
It may be because of our genes or due to how our brains develop when we’re babies.
Research has found that if you’re autistic then other members of your family may be too.
We’re also likely to share certain medical conditions.
Is there a cure?
We’re born autistic, and we’re always going to be autistic.
You can’t cure it as it’s not a disease, it’s a fundamental part of us.
While some autistic people have medical conditions these are potential things that happen to people and they don’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with being autistic.
However, there are things that help some of the difficulties we may have: see Strategies (below).