Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects the brain’s growth and development. It is a lifelong condition, with symptoms appearing in early childhood (Amaze n.d.). Autism can be characterised by difficulty in social communication; difficulty in social interaction; and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests (Aspect n.d.).
1 in 70 Australians is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
The word spectrum reflects the wide range of difference that people on the spectrum experience and the extent to which they may be affected. No two people on the autism spectrum are alike, and all have unique strengths and interests (Aspect n.d.).
All people on the autism spectrum are affected to some degree in two main areas: social communication and repetitive patterns of behaviour. Autism is also often characterised by sensory sensitivities (Amaze n.d.).
The quality of life for many children and adults is significantly improved by a diagnosis that leads to appropriate evidence-informed intervention or support that recognises individual strengths and interests. (Amaze n.d.).
For a person to be diagnosed with autism they must present with social communication and social interaction difficulties. These difficulties are accompanied by restricted or repetitive behaviours, interests or activities (Aspect n.d.).
Characteristics of autism – Social communication issues (Aspect n.d.):
- Difficulty understanding non-verbal communication, such as body language
- Difficulty understanding when and how to appropriately respond in social interactions
- Trouble developing, understanding and maintaining relationships with others
Characteristics of autism – Repetitive patterns of behaviour (Aspect n.d.):
- Repetitive use of movement, speech or objects
- Easily upset by changes to routine, environment, and the familiar
- Very narrow and intense focus on limited areas of interest
Challenges for a Person with Autism
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have the ability and desire to work, but there are still several obstructions. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates disappointing employment outcomes for this group. The vast majority is unemployed and for those who do have gainful employment, underemployment is common. The increased prevalence of ASD coupled with unique social, communication, and behavioral characteristics translate into the need for services to help them achieve employment success. Consideration of individual characteristics including strengths, needs, as well as specific interests, coupled with implementation of proper supports can result in successful and ongoing employment. Specific areas addressed include benefits of employment, state of employment, obstacles to employment, current service options, and an in-depth review of supports needed for success. These supports focus not only on job tasks, but also the interpersonal skills needed to foster a positive work experience (Hendrix 2010, p.125-134). In addition to this, we believe that the obstacles to comfort for a person with ASD are often spatially and environmentally related (e.g. distractions, light, noise etc). As a result of our research, we would like to solve for this discomforts in space.
For a long time, autism has been understood and explained in terms of impairment. In the 1970s, Dr Lorna Wing introduced the concept of a ‘triad of impairments’ that all autistic people share: difficulties with social interaction, social communication and social imagination. Booth (2016, p. 14) posits that although this was a significant step forward in understanding autism at the time, an approach that views autism as part of human neurological diversity is an improved way to look at it.
Aspect (Autism Spectrum Australia) n.d., About Autism, Aspect (Autism Spectrum Australia), viewed 6 June 2019, <https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/about-autism>.
Amaze n.d., Understand Autism, Amaze, viewed 6 June 2019, <https://www.amaze.org.au/understand-autism/>.
Booth, J 2016, Autism Equality in the Workplace, Jessica Kingsley, London.
Hendricks D 2010, “‘Autism Spectrum Disorders’: Transition and Employment”, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 125-134.
Australian Bureau of Statistics n.d., Autism in Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, viewed 10 June 2019, <https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4428.02012?OpenDocument>.