World Autism Awareness Week: What is ASD?


There are currently 700,000 people in the UK with autism spectrum disorder. It is far more common in people than you may have initially of thought. Although many of us think we know what ASD entails, it can be a lot more complex and different to what people initially  assume. In honour of autism awareness, lets throw all of these preconceived assumptions out of the window and explore what Autism spectrum disorder is all about.

Autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges associated with social skills, speech and nonverbal behaviour. Individuals with ASD normally struggle in social situations whether that be at school, work or in other social environments. Sufferers can find everyday situations, like going to the supermarket or venturing to a shopping centre, difficult to handle. For us, it may be like second nature.

Yet, it is important to remember that there is not just one type of autism. In fact, different people are affected by ASD in different ways. This is largely due to varying  genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms can range from a mild impairment to having a severe disability, it has a ranging spectrum. I am sure you have most probably encountered many people with autism and you haven’t even been aware of it.

However, most commonly, individuals with ASD share the following difficulties:

  • Being fixated on particular activities
  • Long lasting periods of intense interest
  • Getting upset by a change in routine
  • Struggling to keep up with rapid conversations
  • Not being able to hold eye contact
  • Finding it difficult to understand other points of view

However, although social behaviour is often a struggle for people with autism, they also can have the following strengths:

  • Often individuals with autism are gifted and commonly excel in maths, music, science or art
  •  They also quite commonly have above average intelligence
  • Finally, their retention span is often incredible. They are able to learn things in great detail and remember things for a long period of time.
Credit: Centre of Excellence

Autism is normally detected between the ages of 2 -3 and it is usually picked up by identifying repeated patterns of behaviour. In rare cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Diagnosis becomes more difficult in adulthood as ASD symptoms can overlap with other mental health disorders, such as ADHD, therefore making it hard to determine whether the adult has ASD or not.

As previously mentioned, autism affects a huge numbers of people. ASD is currently part of daily life for a staggering 2.8million families in the UK and there are thousands of other people who have the disorder but are unaware of it.1 in 5 people that you meet will have autism.Due to the staggering prevalence of ASD in the UK, it is important to be educated about the disorder. As such, autism is very much a part of our society and should therefore be a disorder that we strive to understand rather than shy away from.


A quirky English Literature student who loves: Taylor Swift,fashion, music, vintage and anything out of the ordinary. Also a proud committee member of kazoo society.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    According to this article there are 700’000 people with an asd in the UK but it affects 2.8 million households? How is that right? That implies 4 households are affected by every one person with an ASD. Also if 1 in 5 people you meet has an ASD, that implies a fifth of the population which is more like 12 million people I’d think?

  2. avatar

    I would avoid referring to autistic people as “sufferers”. Many people see autism as a neurotype more than a disorder, which makes this kind of language border on offensive. Same for the use of expressions like “staggering X families”… it’s not an epidemic or a tragedy to lament about. But I agree about fostering understanding.

    Also, pretty sure the “1 in 5 people” statistics are way off – as far as I am aware it is more like 1 in 68 people, or 1 in 100 people, depending on where you look.

    – An autistic person

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