Autism: An Introduction


Autism is a lifelong disability which affects the social and communication centre of the brain. Autism affects the way an individual relates to people, situations and the immediate environment. Many inidividuals with Autism have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. They can experience hyper(over) and hypo(under) sensitivity to sight, smells, touch, tastes ad sounds. There is no known cure, but there are many ways to help!

The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is used because Autism varies from person to person. Around 25% of people with ASD will have an accompanying learning disability. Many individuals with ASD will have average or above average intelligence, they are likely to be diagnosed with ASD, high functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. Regardless of an individual’s level of functioning, all individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder will have problems in the areas of Social Communication, Social Skills and Social Imagination.

Chacteristics of Autism

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as ‘The Triad of Impairments’. They are:

What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome has been described as “high functioning Autism”.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome may not have a learning disability; Asperger’s Syndrome may not become obvious until a child is older. Indeed some people can go through their whole lives having Asperger’s Syndrome and not receive a diagnosis until they are in their 40’s or older.

Hans Asperger identified Asperger’s Syndrome in the 1940’s; however, it only became widely known and researched in the 1980’s when Dr Lorna Wing gave comprehensive accounts of 34 cases.

Dr Wing described the main clinical features of Asperger’s Syndrome to be:

  • Lack of empathy.
  • Naive, inappropriate one sided interactions.
  • Little or no ability to form friendships.
  • Pedantic or repetitive speech.
  • Poor non verbal communication.
  • Intense absorption in certain subjects.
  • Clumsy and ill coordinated movements and odd postures.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome can go on to achieve a lot of things; they may have above average intelligence, they may go on to university, have a job, a family. Some people with Asperger’s Syndrome have gone on to become professors, world experts in their chosen field; an example of this is Professor Temple Grandin. Check out her website at www.templegrandin.com




Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities in Northern Ireland. Autism is life-long and the exact cause is still being investigated.

Autism is not caused by poor parenting or social circumstances.

At present there is no known cure for Autism; however, there are a range of interventions that can help individuals reach their full potential.

  • Currently there are over 20,000 individuals affected by Autism within Northern Ireland. 
  • That means 20,000 families are living with the challenges of Autism.

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First Awareness

If you suspect Autism and know little about the condition it may be helpful to read:

Autism in Northern Ireland – The Facts (see link at bottom of this page)

If you now have concerns you should speak to your GP for a referral to a specialist who will be able to make an assessment.

It may be helpful to bring the:-

Important facts about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome for GP’s leaflet (see link at bottom of this page) to help you explain your concerns.