Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also referred to as Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), is a pervasive development disorder (PDD) and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), PDDs are a group of disorders "characterized by qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interactions and in patterns of communication, and by a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests and activities. These qualitative abnormalities are a pervasive feature of the individual's functioning in all situations."

ASD is often categorised into 3 types: Classical; Atypical; and Asperger's Syndrome ("Asperger's").

A lot of people with Asperger's do not like to be associated with Autism as their condition is more a difference (or possibly learning difficulty) than a disability.  Click  Asperger's Syndrome for further information.

Classical Autism , or childhood autism, is manifest before a child is 3 years old. They will be diagnosed as having poor reciprocal social interaction and communication with restricted , stereotyped, repetitive behaviour. They may also have phobias, difficulties eating or sleeping, temper tantrums, and may be aggressive which is often self-directed.

Atypical Autism, or Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), differs from Classical Autism in that the impairment presents itself later in childhood or adulthood and where the diagnosis fails to fulfil all of the 3 criteria (shown above in italics). 

Autism is often associated with a speech and language delay described as Pragmatic Language Impairment (PLI), which used to be  called Semantic Pragmatic Disorder (SPD), which affects what you say and how you say it; or with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) where a person avoids everyday demands made by others because of high anxiety when they feel they are not in control. A person with PLI or PDA does not necessarily mean that they have Autism (or more commonly known as "on the spectrum").

High functioning Autism is a label to describe someone with either Classical but mainly Atypical Autism who has average or above average levels of intelligence. (It is sometimes used to describe people with Asperger's

As research and experience refines the understanding of autism, so the range of characteristics will change. It is because of this that no legal definition in the UK for the term “autistic spectrum condition”.


There are no accurate statistics on the numbers of people with ASD but it was estimated that around 1/2 million people in the UK were on the spectrum (Baird et al 2006) with up to 6 times as many men compared to women. If one expands this to include their families around 2 million people live or support people with the condition daily.

Often the condition is not recognised until a diagnosis, often a self-diagnosis, as an adult. Formal diagnosis can take a considerable length of time, and although it may be useful for certain individuals, there is regrettably a stigma attached to having autism, along with any other learning disability or difficulty, and therefore it may be wise for an individual to complete a test, such as the AQ Test, to determine if they need further support. 


Due to a lack of understanding, or stigma, people with ASD may find it hard to get work and colleagues may find it may be confusing or frustrating working with them. This is because they may not follow or understand the same social rules, or be able to react to social expectations, facial expressions, use of idioms or double-meanings, understand sarcasm or jokes, thus making them seem different, aloof or not part of the team. 

This adds to their and other people's stress, undermines confidence, reduces the ability for the team and organisation to work at its best, and may result in the person being questioned about their behaviour or leaving.

Individuals may have high levels of intelligence, memory, accuracy and can be very methodical, enjoying repetitive tasks, are reliable and thrive in a structured well-organised environment. If their talents are recognised they are likely to be very loyal and committed to the organisation.


We can provide advice on how to recruit and manage people with ASD to get the best out of them for your organisation. We can raise awareness within your organisation of Autism through training and policy documents. We can support you and your individual employees who are seeking to get a diagnosis with a range of services and specialist advice locally. If you would like to know more please contact us.