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Autism Q&A

What is Autism?

March 20th, 2023


For Autism Community, Allys

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental difference that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. It is characterized by differences in social communication and interaction and by restrictive and repetitive behaviours, actions, or interests. Every autistic person has unique strengths and support needs which can fluctuate throughout a person’s life.

Common traits include:

  • Differences in communication and speech
  • Difficulty using or understanding gestures, such as pointing
  • Difficulty with abstract concepts and pronouns
  • Repetitive language (echolalia)
  • Difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations
  • Difficulty developing and sustaining relationships with peers
  • Difficulty with question-based communication
  • Social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and gestures can be missed, perceived differently, or used in non-neurotypical ways
  • Intense focus and understanding of special interests
  • Self-stimulating for regulation, such as rocking, hand flapping, chewing, unique vocalizations, or other repetitive movements. This can sometimes be self-injurious
  • Preferences for set routines, familiar surroundings, or predictability
  • Hypersensitivity to smell, touch, taste, sound, or sight
  • Fascination with visual stimulation from lights, movement, or taking things apart to learn how they work


Autism is a Spectrum

The autism spectrum is not a straight line from ‘less autistic’ to ‘more autistic.’ Instead, the term ‘spectrum’ refers to how an autistic person functions in each of these areas:

  • Executive function
  • Sensory processing
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Motor skills
  • Perseverative thinking
  • Social awareness
  • Verbal & nonverbal communication
  • Information processing

Each autistic person’s experience of autism is different. One autistic person may have high support needs for their motor skills and executive function, but none for communication. Another may excel at motor function but needs some help with social awareness.

Autism Myths

There are many misconceptions about autism that are harmful and stigmatizing to autistic people. Contrary to common myths, autism is:

  • Not curable or in need of a cure
  • Not a disease
  • Not caused by vaccines
  • Not caused by diet
  • Not caused by poor parenting
  • Not only present in children
  • Not only present in males


To learn more, join our next “What is Autism? Workshop” or explore the links and videos below.

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