What is ASD?

ASD is a complex developmental disability. It has a lifelong and pervasive influence on every aspect of a person's family and community life.
Individuals diagnosed with ASD display severe difficulties in three areas:
  • communication
  • social interaction, and
  • flexible thinking and behaviour.
In addition, some young people with ASD also have significant atypical perception of sounds, sights, smell, touch and taste which can lead to distinctive behavioural responses.
A pattern of developmental differences in all three areas is necessary to confirm a medical diagnosis. The effect of these difficulties on a young person will vary; no two people with ASD are the same. The disability label does not tell you about their personality, likes, dislikes or potential as a person.
(Source: http://education.qld.gov.au/studentservices/learning/disability/generalinfo/asd/asd2.html)

Video Resources:

A quick overview of what ASD is and that 1 in 100 of your students have this disorder.
A six year old with high functionin ASD - **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aW9xk-1Vsc**
Teachers TV - Secondary Special Needs Autism - **http://www.teachers.tv/video/21820**
Teachers TV - Inclusion and Austism - **http://www.teachers.tv/video/21826**
Four boys on the autistic spectrum are observed during their school day to see how their individual needs are met by both mainstream and specialist staff.
As autism is a developmental disorder, not a learning disability, the majority of secondary age children with a diagnosis attend mainstream schools.
Difficulties relating to autism can be made worse by the busy secondary environment. Complete inclusion of pupils with ASD into school life can be difficult to achieve.
The challenges of ASD are discussed by inclusion manager Craig Smith and mainstream teachers, and learning support practitioners demonstrate how they help in class.

Why is each person with a diagnosis of ASD unique?

Every person is a unique individual. We all come from our own unique family, have distinctive personalities and a particular sense of humour. A diagnosis of ASD doesn't change the uniqueness of an individual. The term ASD describes a specific cluster of difficulties someone is experiencing; it does not define the whole person.
Young people with ASD will display varying abilities in communication, social understanding and flexibility of thought and behaviour. The level of difficulty they may experience in each area will be specific to each individual, however the pattern of problems is the feature common to persons diagnosed with ASD.
In language and communication, for example, some young people may be avid conversationalists in an area of interest to themselves. The same person, however, may experience great difficulty discussing what they did on the weekend. Other young people with ASD may use pictorial symbols or voice-output devices.

How is a diagnosis of ASD made?

In the Queensland state education system, the identification of an autistic spectrum disorder for a student is considered to be a highly specialised medical skill. School staff are not qualified to offer this health service. Family members who are concerned about their child's developmental ability should arrange to speak with their general practitioner for a referral to a:
  • paediatrician,
  • psychiatrist or
  • neurologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes ASD?

The scientific reason is unknown. International and national research into genetic, biological and medical causes is continuing.
ASD is definitely NOT caused by poor parenting or poor teaching.

2. How common is ASD?

An agreed current prevalence of ASD in Australia is extremely difficult to determine. The inconsistency in prevalence data is due to a number of factors, including the size of population studied, lack of current Australian research data and debate amongst researchers about the groupings of disorders included or excluded from existing prevalence studies. Research does confirm that ASD is more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls.

3. Do young people with ASD 'grow out of it '?

No. ASD is a lifelong disability. All people with ASD can learn many strategies to cope with their own individual difficulties, however, for young people with ASD these coping skills are often not 'automatic ' and require ongoing effort and thought from the young person and their support team to work. It is important to remember the 'spectrum ' of difficulties will impact on each person uniquely, including their abilities in everday life.

4. Is there a cure for ASD?

No. At this point in time there are no medically acknowledged or accepted 'cures' available for ASD. Research into the possible causes of ASD, and treatments considered beneficial is ongoing.

5. Are people with ASD intellectual impaired?

Young people of all levels of intellectual ability can have ASD; research indicates that about 20% of individuals diagnosed with ASD will also have an intellectual impairment.

6. Can other disabilities or conditions occur with ASD?

Yes. Young people with ASD, as with all people in society, can have co-occurring problems including epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fragile X, depression and severe anxiety.

7. Do young people with ASD need medication?

Not necessarily. Some young people may require medication to assist with associated medical conditions, such as epilepsy. At times, medication to assist concentration or mood may be recommended by a specialist doctor — however this medication WILL NOT CURE or ELIMINATE problem behaviours. It provides a window of opportunity for the person with their support team to develop more effective communication and coping skills.

Good News Stories:
Tim Sharp - Successful International Artist - http://www.laserbeakman.com/
Successful People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_on_the_autistic_spectrum