Improving access to social care for adults with autism

What autism is

People with autism have said that the world, to them, is a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, and which can cause them considerable anxiety. (2)

Autism* is a lifelong developmental disability. Some people have severe autism, and require a lot of specialist support; others exhibit mild characteristics of autism, and live largely independent lives. This means that autism is often referred to as a spectrum condition. Many people with autism also have a learning disability, but a roughly equal number do not. This latter group is sometimes known as having high-functioning autism, and many have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. Other diagnoses on the autistic spectrum include atypical autism and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified).

All people with autism have difficulties in three areas. This is known as the 'triad of impairments'. People with autism have:

As a result, people with autism typically struggle with the rules of social engagement, such as when to speak, when to laugh and when to empathise. They might therefore prefer their own company, so avoiding unpredictable and stressful situations, even though they may still crave affection. While many people with autism have good language skills, others will speak little or not at all. People with autism typically prefer communication to be simple and clear.
Many people with autism also have (2):

The spectrum nature of the condition and the idiosyncrasy of some people's needs make it unhelpful to over-generalise about autism. They also make providing services to groups of people with autism a challenge. A key theme of this guide is the need to understand autism, but also to get to know the person with autism really well, and work with them to individualise their support based on that knowledge.

* Throughout this guide, we refer to the condition as autism, rather than as autistic spectrum condition (ASC) or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).