Autism spectrum disorders

What are autism spectrum disorders?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are pervasive neuro-developmental disorders which affect social skills and communication, and impact on behaviours and interests. They include Autistic Disorder or autism, Asperger’s Disorder or Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS).

Prevalence estimates vary widely as ASD has become more recognised; it is more prevalent in males, with about four males for every female with a diagnosis. Current research indicates that approximately one in 100 people have an ASD.

High-Functioning ASD and Asperger’s Disorder

While a majority of people with ASD also have an intellectual disability, about 40 to 45 per cent do not. People with ASD and no intellectual disability are referred to as high-functioning. Most higher education students with high-functioning ASD are likely to have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder or Syndrome (many people refer to themselves as having Asperger's Syndrome) which is generally associated with intellectual and language skills in the normal range.

While people with high-functioning ASD have good cognitive and language skills, their difficulties with social skills, communication and behaviours (such as the need to adhere to specific routines, or having strong interests), and other secondary characteristics often associated with ASD (e.g. high anxiety, poor organisation) can affect their ability to cope and learn at university and TAFE.

Characteristics of ASD

What are the characteristics of ASD?