Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism are unable to relate to others in a meaningful way. Their ability to develop friendships is impaired as is their capacity to understand other people's feelings.
People with autism can often have accompanying learning difficulties but everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the world.
There is also a condition called Asperger's syndrome which is a form of autism used to describe people at the higher functioning end of the autistic spectrum.
All people with autism have impairments in social interaction, social communication and imagination.
Social interaction difficulty with social relationships, for example, appearing aloof and indifferent to other people.
Social communication difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, not really understanding the meaning of gestures, facial expression or tone of voice.
Imagination difficulty in the development of play and imagination, for example, having a limited range of imaginative activities, possibly copied and pursued rigidly and repetitively.
The exact causes of autism are unknown but research shows that genetic factors are significant. It is also evident from research that autism is associated with a variety of conditions affecting brain development which occur before, during or very soon after the birth.
Autism requires specialist support and you should consult your GP if you suspect your child has autism.