Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition. This means that the development of the brain and wider nervous system in people with autism differs from typical neurodevelopment. Specifically, it manifests in qualitative social impairments in communication, imagination and interaction. Because of this difference in development, the way in which people with autism think and process information differs to that of the majority of people in the typical population. In particular, this difference affects:
– the ability to effectively communicate socially;
– the ability to secure and maintain effective relationships;
– the ability to think and act flexibly;
– the perception and management of sensory stimuli.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are present from birth and are not the result of any aspects of parenting, or any social or emotional factors. Prevalence and incidence studies posit that between 1 in 60 to 1 in 85 children are born with a condition on the Autistic Spectrum. Whilst there are no formal completed incidence studies in South Africa, these rates are considered to be reasonably constant worldwide, through race, ethnic and cultural groupings. There are no boundaries as to who is affected and where.