The word autism is now quite well known to most people, even if the actual nature of the condition may be less well understood. In recent years many professionals have recognised that there are many children who do not fit the classic or complete picture of an autistic child. A phrase, which is now more often used, is "autistic spectrum". The autistic spectrum is vast, ranging from Kanner autism to Semantic pragmatic, these are the three main elements of impairment:
- Problems with social interaction.
- Problems with communication (both language and non-verbal communication).
- Flexibility of thought.
Children may have significant difficulties in either all, or a combination of these areas. For example, one child may have a major difficulty with social interaction, but minor problems with the other two, while a second child may have mild difficulties in all areas.
These children display similarities but there are wide variations in degrees of difficulties. This becomes particularly important when we are trying to decide the best way to help the child.
Some professionals will use the term autism to cover all such children. We prefer to use this term only for children with major problems in the three areas and the term autistic spectrum for others. Of course there are no simple and straightforward lines to be drawn as we are talking about degrees of difficulty.
The term Asperger´s Syndrome is now also being used to describe children (and adults) who have some autistic features, but are of normal or high general ability. Again we see this group as being on the autistic spectrum. It is important, however, for parents and others to know that these terms are used differently in different areas of the country, and in literature about the condition.
We believe that the first responsibility is to give as full as account as possible to parents and other professionals to help them understand the child, and to point to the most appropriate ways to help.