Each person is unique, so autism can affect an individual in a variety of ways. However, there are difficulties autistic people may share, according to the National Autistic Society.
In regards to social communication, a person with autism may have difficulty understanding sarcasm.
This can include taking things literally, and not understanding abstract concepts and tone of voice.
For example, someone could state they’re “thrilled” about the idea of another national lockdown, while rolling their eyes and sounding fed up.
In response, an autistic person may seem confused and ask: “Why are you thrilled about another national lockdown?”
Autistic people tend to find it hard to recognise or understand others’ feelings and intentions.
This can result in someone with the condition appearing to be insensitive to other people.
Another clue to autistic behaviour is repetitive and restrictive behaviour.
Trying to minimise unpredictability (a part of life) may be central to the life of a person with autism.
This may include wearing the same clothes or eating the exact same foods for breakfast or dinner.
Changes to routine can be distressing, which can trigger anxious feelings.
This doesn’t mean that autistic people can’t manage life; on the contrary, people with this condition can excel in the workplace.
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Many autistic people have intense and highly focused interests – often from a fairly young age.
If this interest is channeled in the world of work, such as taking a keen interest in protecting wildlife, and then working in conservation, it’s highly likely their passion will take them far.
It’s when this excess passion interferes with other aspects of their lives it can be viewed as problematic.
During an autism assessment, the clinician will rely on diagnostic tools.
The International Classification of Disease, tenth edition (ICD-10) is the most commonly-used diagnostic manual in the UK.
In the manual, an autistic person is determined to experience “qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interaction and patterns of communication”.
They also demonstrate “restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests and activities”.
And these “abnormalities are a pervasive feature of the individual’s functioning in all situations”.
Chris Packham, CBE and National Autistic Society Ambassador, commented on his life experience with autism.
“For me, I was confused by the way people behaved,” he confessed, adding that “the greatest discomfort for autistic people can be the social one”.
For more snippets on how people have felt their autism has affected their life, visit the National Autistic Society.
To clarify, their view is that autism “should be seen as a difference, not a disadvantage”.