Having difficulty talking with other people or not understanding them very well. Having a hard time adjusting when there is a lot of change. Finding something very interesting, such as cars, and knowing everything about them. These are all typical traits you might have if you have autism. Not everyone with autism has the same problems. You may often be awkward around other people, but there are also many things which you are very good at.

What is autism?

When you have autism, you find it particularly difficult to make contact with others. It may be difficult for you to have a conversation with others, and it may be hard for you to understand some things in the same way others do. When someone has an angry or sad expression on his or her face, for example, you don’t understand exactly what is meant by it. And, the other way around, people don’t understand you and find it difficult to interact with you. It may be that you like it when things occur in the same way and there aren’t many changes around you. Your brain processes everything you hear, see, feel, taste and smell in a different way than it does for other people.

The problems you might have if you have autism:

  • Finding it difficult to make friends.
  • Finding it difficult to have contact with others. For example, you may not like it when someone touches you.
  • Not fully understanding how someone else feels.
  • Having problems related to language and speech. For example, you find it difficult to understand jokes made by others.
  • Not being sensitive enough to what happens around you. For example, you put on a T-shirt and don’t realise that it is actually pretty cold that day. Or, being extremely sensitive to things that happen around you. For example, you have difficulty with loud noises.
  • Not being able to keep pace at school.
  • Being extremely afraid of some things.
  • Being extremely interested in something, such as computers.
  • Not liking changes.

However, not everyone with autism is the same. There are different types of autism.

Asperger syndrome (named after the physician who discovered it): This condition is almost the same as autism, in the sense that you also have difficulty making contact with other people. However, you don’t have any language problems and you keep up at school.

PDD-NOS: You have the same problems as in autism, but they are less severe or fewer in number. You find it difficult to interact with peers. You often have the impression that others don’t really understand you, but you try your best to be just like them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always successful and you don’t understand why. PDD-NOS is an abbreviation for Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. A developmental disorder means that you have difficulty learning new things.

What causes autism?

Autism is primarily hereditary in origin. This means that if one of your parents and brothers or sisters has it there is a certain chance that you will also get it. When you are autistic, your brain works differently. But there is nothing you can do about this, that is how you were born.

How common is it?

In the Netherlands, roughly one out of every 100 children has autism.

Would you like to know more about the treatment of autism?

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