Autism and Aspergers

General information on Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and Asperger’s Syndrome


Autism is a spectrum ‘disorder’ which means that the individual is affected to different degrees and in different ways. Asperger Syndrome is a form of high functioning autism.

People with ASDs are all unique and individual – the characteristics/ behaviours identified below are not the same for each person. People with autism are people first, with their own personalities and unique individuality.

However, in brief, people with an ASD may have the following characteristics to a greater or lesser extent:

  • Rigidity of thought
  • ‘Special interests’ and repetitive behaviour
  • Logical/literal thinking

They may differ from non-autistic people in respect of:

  • imagining future events
  • understanding situations, people, places that they have not experienced themselves
  • empathy
  • time concepts
  • change – finding new experiences difficult
  • understanding of their sense of self
  • interaction and appropriate communication
  • understanding relationships and the boundaries of the different relationships
  • understanding nuance, inference, irony
  • understanding body language, social clues and facial expressions

People with an ASD can:

  • be vulnerable – will do what people ask due to difficulty imagining the consequences
  • need closure (endings)
  • have poor understanding of cause and effect
  • have different sensitivity to the 5 senses e.g. hyper-sensitive to particular sounds, so much that it causes physical pain
  • become over-stimulated by too much input from verbal and non-verbal information leading to confusion

Leaving home and starting university can be a stressful time for any student. Students with ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome often find change one of the most difficult concepts to deal with. It means a complete change of established routines and learning how to cope in a new location, new study environment, with new people and, often, a new place to live. For this reason it is even more essential for these students to build on their internal skills set to cope with change.

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