Autism Spectrum Conditions & Aspergers Syndrome
Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs) and Asperger’s Syndrome are characterised by difficulties in social communication and interaction and by a restricted and inflexible behavioural repertoire. The symptoms exist on continua and may manifest as anything from a complete lack of speech and interest in other people through to milder difficulties with holding reciprocal conversations. The behavioural repertoire of an individual with an ASC may be characterised by repetitive speech and/or motor movements, unusual interests (e.g., vacuum cleaners or batteries), an obsession with rules and insistence that things are done in a particular way (e.g., eating the same sandwiches for lunch or insisting that food on a dinner plate doesn’t touch), an interest in one or two subjects or pursuits that is developmentally appropriate but the strength of the interest is not (e.g., an obsession with Lightning McQueen, Ben10 or dinosaurs), an orientation towards facts rather than fiction, and an unusual response to sensory input (e.g., under-response to cold/heat/pain or an excessive response to vibration, noise or textures).
ASCs and Asperger’s Syndrome are complex conditions made even more complex by the fact that other characteristics such as motor-coordination problems, speech and language difficulties, attention deficits, unusual patterns of intellectual gifts or deficits, and weaknesses in academic skills co-occur in the same children at rates higher than in the rest of the population. Therefore, any assessment for an ASC or Asperger’s Syndrome must also investigate these other areas.