Difficulties of living with Autism
Autism is a life-long developmental disorder; it affects the way a person interacts socially. Autism may appear from birth or from
infancy, and causes difficulty in developing normal social relationships, and in standard communication.

It must be stressed that autism is a condition with a wide-ranging degree of severity. Individuals with ASD look no different
from other people, leading to autism being sometimes called the "invisible disability". However, understanding of their unique
condition will prevent unfair judgment of their behavior.
Autistic people do not necessarily have special or ‘savant’ skills. Some autistic people do have unusual drawing abilities, musical
talents, exceptional rote-memory or even lightning-speed mathematical calculation. However, these cases are in the minority
(about 10%) rather than being the average. Autism can be described as a severe disorder of communication, socialization and

Autism Impairments

•        Impairment of social interaction: difficulty in relating to others.
•        Impairment of social communication: poor use and understanding of language.
•        Impairment of imagination: inability to play imaginatively with toys or interact socially due to lack of intuition and a literal

Language and Communication Impairments

Individuals with ASD show a lack of appreciation of the functions and pleasures of social communication. Even those who have
a lot speech generally talk ‘at’ others rather than talking with others.

•        Lack of understanding of language as a tool for conveying social and emotional information to others. They may be able to
ask for their own needs but find it difficult to talk about feelings or thoughts and to understand the emotions, ideas and beliefs of

•        Poor comprehension of the information expressed in body language, ex. gestures, facial expression, posture, tone of
voice, etc. Therefore, they generally do not gesture, imitate or use tone of voice, etc. to convey information. Some individuals do
use gestures but these tend to be odd and inappropriate.

•        Those with good vocabularies generally show only a literal understanding of the language, and are unable to pick up the
subtle meanings in language. The subjects that they talk about are often limited to a few preferred interests. There are people
with autism who are fascinated with words but generally do not employ them for social interaction or conversation.

Formal Language Problems

Social communication is always impaired in ASD individuals, whereas formal language might not be affected. There may be
problems in comprehension of speech, ranging from complete lack of understanding to subtle difficulties in grasping
metaphorical (sarcasm or imagery) and idiomatic (expressions or phrases) speech.

Other problems in speech include:

•        A complete absence of speech
•        Both immediate and/ or delayed echolalia
•        Confusion of the sequence of letters and word, of similar sound or related meanings; mixing up pronouns and
prepositions, ex. using ‘you’ and ‘he’ instead of ‘I’.
•        Poor control of pitch, volume and tone of the voice.

Abnormalities of Visual Inspection and Eye Contact

Examples: The use of peripheral vision more than central visual,, responding less to details and more to movement and outline;
looking past people and things, seeing things ‘out of the corners of the eyes’ more often than by direct inspection.

Children with autism may look at people and things with brief and rapid glances; or look at others too long and too intently (seen
more in older children). The child may have problems with imitating motor movements. There may be a tendency to mix up left
with right, back with front, or up with down. They may learn better if his/her limbs are moved through the necessary motions.
There are children who develop the ability to imitate movements as they grow older.

Problems with Motor Control

Examples include:

•        an odd posture when standing
•        a bouncy tip-toe way of walking
•        jumping, flapping limbs, rocking when excited

Unusual Responses to Sensory Experiences

A child with autism may express fascination, distress or indifference towards sounds, visual stimuli, pain, heat, cold, the feel of
surfaces, tastes, smells, being touched, etc. Their reaction may be rather out of the ordinary, such as covering the eyes when
reacting to a sound.

Inappropriate Emotional Reactions

Examples include lack of fear of real danger, but excessive fear of non-threatening objects or situations; laughing, weeping or
screaming for no apparent reason. These reactions most probably result because they lack understanding of the meaning of the

Abnormalities of Physical Functions and Physical Development

Examples include:

•        irregular patterns of sleeping and resistance to the effects of sedatives
•        irregular patterns of eating and drinking, including sometimes the consumption of large quantities of fluid
•        lack of dizziness after spinning around

Behavioral Difficulties

Children with ASD tend to be socially immature with a difficult behavior, for example, throwing tantrums, screaming in public,
biting or kicking other people, saying inappropriate things.

Theory of Mind

A relatively new hypothesis in the field of autism has been labeled Theory of Mind which suggests that the human brain normally
has a theory of mind section and that this particular component of the brain may not develop normally in some people.

Theory of mind is the ability identify with point of views, beliefs, intents, desires, plans, pretending, attitudes, emotions and
understand that others have different beliefs, desires and intentions from one’s own. Empathy is related to the concept, meaning
the inability to “put oneself into another’s shoes”.

Many autistic individuals have difficulties in lying and theory of mind is suggested as a reason. Individuals with autism may
believe that others always know what they are thinking. While not pleasant for teachers or parents, the beginning of telling lies in
a child can be positive in that it is a developmental milestone. This inability could be the cause of their impairments in social,
communication and imagination.

Wing, Lorna (1995). "Autistic Spectrum Disorders: an aid to diagnosis". The National Autistic Society & Team C0110296
Difficulties of living with Autism
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