I’d rather use the term “people with Autism” rather than “autistic” since Autism is not part of the individual’s identity but only some condition that he/she has. Autism is a neurobehavioral condition now more formally referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
It’s called a “spectrum” disorder because of the wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms that people experience. People who have ASD have “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.”1
They may have difficulty in understanding what others feel and think, and this may make it challenging for them to express themselves through verbal or nonverbal ways. Sometimes, you’ll notice that the words they say and gestures or facial expressions they make aren’t integrated with one another.
They may even exhibit unusual responses to people. People with ASD also have “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.”2 This may include repetitive body movements such as rocking or hand flapping and resisting changes in routines. They may also have “unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.”3 For example, they might seem unable to notice people who pass by or things which are present in their surroundings.
Symptoms usually appear during the first three years of life but sometimes may only manifest themselves when the demands of their environment exceed what they are capable of doing. In order to be diagnosed as ASD, symptoms must cause impairment in areas of functioning which are not better explained by intellectual disability.
Despite challenges in skill development, communication, and being able to relate to others, people with ASD may have developed skills in other areas such as learning something in detail and remembering such information for a long period of time, solving math problems, creating music, and doing well in arts.
Giancarlo “Gio” Francisco
1 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.