What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

How does it relate to Asperger Syndrome?



The term 'autism' was first used, in the modern day sense, by the psychiatrist Dr Leo Kanner during the early 1940s. The word autism originates from the Greek word 'autos' which means 'self' so it was used to describe conditions where a person did not engage socially. The underlying causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are related to subtle differences in the physical construction of the brain. Therefore it is not primarily a psychological condition nor is it caused by social or environmental factors (e.g. bad parenting). Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a broad set or spectrum of symptoms. The range and severity of symptoms varies widely between different individuals diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. At one extreme of the spectrum are people who are high functioning and are able to live relatively 'normal' lives albeit often with some support. In contrast, at the other extreme are individuals who are profoundly disabled, such people will need considerable support throughout their lives. Asperger Syndrome is usually considered to be one of the higher functioning (not profoundly disabled) subgroups of Autism Spectrum Disorder.




It is well know that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder think  differently. Often high functioning people on the Autism Spectrum are very creative and are able to easily solve certain very complex problems. Consequently, someone on the Autism Spectrum may be exceptionally good at fixing or designing IT, or other complex, systems. I was able to use such skills in the full-time jobs I had before I qualified as a research scientist.



Different descriptions...

Autism Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger Syndrome, can be considered at various levels, and viewed from many perspectives; for example, learning difficulties, sensory perceptual problems, altered brain physiology, etc. A fairly standard description of Autism Spectrum Disorder is given on my "What is it?" webpage.


Words In my autobiography I describe the significant impact that Autism Spectrum Disorder had on my life, this was especially marked during the first 25 years of my life while it remained undiagnosed. For instance by my mid-teenage years I had concluded that I was insane because my way of thinking was very often so different to everyone else's; see "My ASD" and "What helps" for more details.