The term “autistic spectrum disorders” covers
several forms of autism ranging from lower, medium or higher
functioning to Asperger syndrome, writes Natalie Valios. Those at
the lower end of the spectrum are less able with a lower
intelligence and often have a learning difficulty. Asperger
syndrome describes people at the higher functioning end of the
spectrum. Autism was first identified in 1943 by child psychiatrist
Leo Kanner. In 1944, Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger described
an “abnormality of personality”, later known as Asperger syndrome.
His work was not translated into English until the early 1970s and
so this disability was not widely known in English-speaking
countries until fairly recently. An autistic spectrum disorder is a
lifelong disability with no cure, and is believed to be genetically
related. It is more prevalent in males. The reason for this is
unknown. Characteristically, people with autism have three
– Difficulty with social interaction, so that they may appear

– Difficulty with language and non-verbal
communication, which means they do not understand gestures and
facial expressions.

– Difficulty with imaginative activity. They
may be excellent at retaining facts and figures but find it hard to
think imaginatively.

Recent figures from the Medical Research
Council show an increase in cases of autistic spectrum disorders,
with as many as six in 1,000 young children believed to be
affected. This may be because professionals are better at
diagnosing the situation nowadays, rather than as a result of an
increase in prevalence.

For more information contact the National
Autistic Society on 020 7833 2299 or or the Hoffmann de
Visme Foundation on 020 8342 7310.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.