Understanding Autism


Did you know that 1 in 100 people in Ireland have some form of Autism?


According to a study carried out in DCU, this is the amount of people living in this country who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, my brother Thomas included.


I have known what Autism was since Thomas, was diagnosed. Thomas is an inspiration in that he can engage and communicate with others in an effective manner and has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years.


While he is now  in fifth year in a mainstream secondary school, Thomas was lucky enough to have been one of the first students to attend the ABACAS School in Drogheda, a school set up in 2003 to cater for the needs of children and young people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.


A lot of people don’t understand what Autism really means for the person diagnosed and their family.

According to Irish Autism Action “Autism is a lifelong  neuro-developmental disability  that affects the development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication.”


This means that someone who has autism may experience difficulty communicating and interacting with others as they go about their day-to-day activities. Thomas seems quiet in school, but is ridiculously chatty amongst family and members of the youth club he attends weekly, run by his old school ABACAS (each member is on the autistic spectrum).


Autism is often described as a ‘spectrum disorder’, meaning that two individuals with the same diagnosis may not experience the same difficulties at the same time. The symptoms can present themselves in many forms and combinations ranging from mild to severe.


The three main areas of difficulty experienced by those with autism are social interaction, social integration and social imagination.


Although scientists are not certain what causes autism but research into autism and genetics has shown that it is likely autism is genetically pre- determined, despite rumours of its relation to certain vaccinations. Research is ongoing and experts hope to determine which genes may be relevant and to what degree environmental ‘triggers’ (if any) may be involved in the increase in chances that a child may be born with autism.


‘The Autism Spectrum’ is a term widely used to describe the range of abilities and disabilities across the autistic community which can be defined as Severe, Moderate, Mild, High Functioning Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS.


Asperger’s Syndrome is a diagnosis often given to individuals who find social interaction and communication difficult. The person may also seek comfort in a rigid routine, including their preferred activities and interests. They may also experience sensory sensitivity, but will often display “normal cognitive functioning and language development”.

Aine Monk

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