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What is Autism

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects the development of the brain and is indicated by severe difficulties in communicating and forming relationships with people, in developing language and in using abstract concepts. Characteristics include repetitive and limited patterns of behaviour and obsessive resistance to small changes in familiar surroundings or routines.

The 4 main areas of difficulty for people with autism are classified under the following headings


  1. Social Communication

  2. Social Interaction

  3. Social Imagination

  4. Sensory Processing

Sensory processing difficulties are indicated by either a hyper sensitivity or hypo(reduced) sensitivity across any or all of the 5 senses. The first signs of autism usually appear as developmental delays before the age of 3.  Autism is described as a ‘spectrum’ disorder. This means that the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations and can range from mild to severe. Two children with the same diagnosis can act very differently from one another and have varying skills. Some early indicators that require follow up from a professional include:

  • No babbling or pointing by age 1
  • No single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • No response to name
  • Loss of language or social skills
  • Poor eye contact
  • Excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • No smiling or social responsiveness

Indicators that you might find when your child is with other children:

  • Difficulty with making friends with peers
  • Absence or reduction in imaginative and social play
  • Stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
  • Restricted patterns of interest that are unusual in intensity or focus
  • Pre-occupation with certain objects or obsession with specific routines or rituals

If you suspect that your child is exhibiting some or all of the above symptoms, it is recommended that they are screened for Autism.  Please visit Autism Ireland at  for more detailed information and a list of available resources in your area.

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