Autism is lifelong and affects the social and communication centre of the brain. 

Autism affects the way person relates to people, social situations, and the immediate environment. Many autistic people have difficulty processing everyday sensory information like sight, smells, touch, tastes and sounds. 

Autistic people may also describe themselves as neurodivergent, this includes lots of different conditions such as OCD, Bi-polar, Schizophrenia, ADHD and Down Syndrome. It is important to recognise that brain functioning and processing is different from what is considered ‘typical’. 

The medical model of disability reflects that there are two main areas of difficulty which all autistic people share are:

  • Social Communication and reciprocal Social Interactions.
  • Restricted, Repetitive and Inflexible Patterns of Behaviour (including sensory processing differences).

The social model of disability enables society to explore how neurodivergent people experience their differences and what they view as disabling in society. Different not less is key when exploring the dimensions of neurodiversity.

As autism is a spectrum condition, it will affect people in different ways depending on the individual. It is important to understand how each person is impacted in these areas, to enable you to support them in an individualised way that is tailored for them.

Autistic people process information in different ways, and this can also result in great strengths. For example, many autistic people have a very deep focus and attention to detail and can problem solve in a different way leading to new, innovate ways of working. It is important to get to know everyone’s strengths and differences, so that we can be person-centred, inclusive, and supportive.

In addition, some autistic people will have PDA ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance’, this is now understood to be a profile within the autism spectrum. It involves the avoidance of everyday demands and the use of social strategies as part of this. The autistic community often refer to PDA as 'Pervasive Drive for Autonomy'; this neurodivergent affirming phrase was first coined by Wilder. It is recognised that PDAers share many autistic characteristics but in addition will have the key features of a PDA profile.

Young man standing in a field

Spectrum Stories

Autism NI support autistic people and their families through a range of different services. We are sharing their stories and experiences of life on the spectrum. 

Read the stories