Autism is a lifelong disability that impacts how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. No two autistic people are the same – each person has their own way of seeing the world.
The characteristics of autism are widely varied. An autistic person might have strengths in attention to detail, technology skills, logic skills or memory and strong passionate interests. They may communicate honestly and directly. They may repeat words or phrases or use sounds, signs, gestures or pictures to communicate instead of spoken words. They may take extra time to understand what others have to say. They might use or respond to body language (e.g. eye contact) differently. They may experience discomfort in busy, complex social situations and be more comfortable socialising through technology. They might prefer to play alone or next to others more than with them. They might enjoy doing things in the same way or playing with toys in a unique way. They may be constantly aware of some sensations and they may feel overwhelmed if there are too many sensations at once.
Many of the challenges associated with autism arise when individuals are not understood or respected by others, when they are not supported to know and embrace their autistic identity or when they are not afforded opportunities to connect, see and learn from other autistic people in their community. When they are, they can become much more comfortable in a non-Autistic world.