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Autism spectrum disorder


Autism is a neurobiological difference which causes specific difficulties in the triad of Social Communication, Social Imagination and Social Interaction

Puzzle Piece or Infinity Symbol

Over time, as more was discovered about the autism spectrum, the puzzle piece symbol began to be viewed in a negative light by the autism community. Those who spoke out in opposition said they felt it created the impression that autism was a riddle to be solved or that those with the condition were incomplete. 

In February 2018, the puzzle piece was replaced with a rainbow-colored infinity symbol to represent a spectrum, diversity, and difference. It removes the idea that those with autism are missing parts or are incomplete.

In March 2021, the Autism Society of America along with leading disability organizations in America announced it was shifting to refer to April as Autism Acceptance Month not Autism Awareness Month.

Credit: Rock  Paper Scissors Branding & Marketing 

Autism is a neurobiological difference which causes specific difficulties in the triad of Social Communication, Social Imagination and Social Interaction (core symptoms) which can present with ritualistic behaviours, special interests and/or sensory difficulties. 


Autism can present in individuals in varying ways and have a varying level of impact on the individual, while some may have a co-presenting cognitive disability, there are others who can function in society, who are able to mask their difficulties due to their learned behaviours and/or level of intelligence.

Social communication difficulties can present as difficulties in the use of and understanding of both verbal and non-verbal communication.  This can be seen in individuals who may struggle with the tone, volume or speed of their speech, with s

peech mirroring such as copying accents, as well as nuances in speech such as the tone implying sarcasm, a question etc.  This also incorporates the appropriate use of language, such as staying on topic or taking turns within a conversation. 


In non-verbal communication these differences can manifest as incongruent facial expressions (smiling when telling bad news), lack of non verbal gestures such as waving good bye, or using non verbal structures to build a description.

Social Imagination should not be confused with creative ability.  Social imagination is

how we can understand and predict others behaviour and makes sense of abstract ideas.  In children this is traditionally observed through play, where play can present as more functional or copied.  It causes difficulties in being able to see things from another person’s perspective, or being able to interpret others feelings or actions. 


As it causes difficulties in being able to predict what could happen next, it can cause issues with the concept of danger.  In adulthood however this can be why Autistic individuals develop a very rigid routine as they struggle to imagine what it would be like if the routine was not followed. 

Social Interaction has been differentiated as a separate issue to social communication, in that it is the ability to start and sustain a conversation, as well as understand non-verbal communication cues and of course the most well known feature, making and maintaining eye contact.  These difficulties can manifest as individuals standing too close or too far away, staring at or refusing to look at the other individuals eyes.

There are varied terms used within Autism, such as Aspergers, used to describe the level of “functioning”.  Many autistic individuals have shunned terms such as high or low functioning, due to it being discriminatory.  All autistic individuals will experience some level of impairment in their environments, how they manage that is solely down to the skills that they have acquired on their journey.

Written by Alison Pell, Headmatters CI

Click here for Headmatters CI website

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