Cognitive · Autism

Autism · Profile

What is it?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted interests and sensory sensitivities.

What causes it?

The causes of autism are not entirely understood although a genetic component is often a factor.


Research shows that about 1 in 100 children, almost 230 000 Australians, have an ASD and that it is more prevalent in boys than girls.

Medical Considerations

Autism is often seen in conjunction with other disabilities such as intellectual difficulties, speech and language problems and ADHD. Family histories, school observations and medical evaluations are usually considered by paediatricians in assessing autism.


The range and severity of the difficulties people with an ASD experience can vary widely. ASDs include autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified, which is also known as atypical autism. Sometimes the word “autism” is used to refer to all ASDs.

The three main areas of difficulty are:

  1. Impairment in social interaction

    • Limited understanding of non-verbal communication such as eye gaze and facial expression
    • Difficulties forming and sustaining friendships
    • Lack of seeking to share activities with other people
    • Difficulties with social and emotional responsiveness
  2. Impairment in communication

    • Delayed language development
    • Difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations
    • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language eg repeating lines from movies
    • Limited imaginative or make-believe play
  3. Restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours

    • Unusually intense or focused interests
    • Repetitive body movements such as hand flapping and spinning
    • Repetitive use of objects eg. lining up toys
    • Adherence to non-functional routines such as insisting on eating the same lunch every day
    • Unusual sensory interests eg. or staring intently at moving objects\n - Sensory sensitivities
    • Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties


The effects of an ASD can often be minimised by early diagnosis and with the right interventions.

Further Information

Autism Spectrum Australia

Autism · Educational

Lesson Preparation & Materials

Teaching Strategies

Feedback & Assessment

Autism · Pastoral

Classroom Management

Peers & SLSOs


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