Boy with Autism
Photo courtesy Scott Vaughan [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability which demonstrate delays and differences across

  • interacting and communicating socially with others
  • displaying behaviours or interests that are restricted, repetitive or fixated

In Australia, 31% of NDIS participants have ASD.

Symptoms of ASD

Symptoms according to DSM 5 are

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviours used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behaviour to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
  4. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive):
    1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
    2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualised patterns or verbal nonverbal behaviour (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).
    3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).
  5. Hyper- or hyperreactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Treatments for ASD

Treatment suggestions approved by the Australian Psychological Society (APS)

  • Decreasing undesirable behaviour
  • Increasing desirable behaviour
  • Improving Social skills
  • Improving Play
  • Improving Communication
  • Parent support
  • Practising skills at home


Severity according to 3 levels

  • Requiring support
  • Requiring substantial support
  • Requiring very substantial support


Autism Spectrum Disorder can co-occur within people with intellectual disability, Fragile X syndrome, Down’s syndrome and other developmental disorders.

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