Empower Autism

What Is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference that affects how people interact with the world around them. These differences aren’t necessarily positive or negative – they are just that – different!

In Australia, around 1 in 100 people identify as autistic, and many more have a personal connection to someone with autism1. Everyone with autism has their own unique experience, with some individuals requiring just a little bit of support while others require more. This may be in the form of a support worker or technology. There are some common characteristics to autism which may be shared amongst the community.

Common Characteristics of Autism

Common characteristics refer to several contexts where an autistic individual may experience the world in a distinct and unique way. These characteristics are often understood across several broad areas, including:

  • Interests & Routines
  • Communication
  • Executive Functioning
  • Sensory Processing

As a starting point, we have provided some examples below to give you a general idea of what these characteristics can look like in an autistic person. We will cover these more in-depth in ‘Step 3: Preferences & Adjustments’.

Prior to that, we would like to briefly highlight that any given member of the autistic community will have their own unique way of interacting with the world around them. 

To quote Dr Stephen Shore, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism”.

The Autism Wheel

If you are a visual learner, the autism wheel is another way of expressing this sense of individuality. While everyone shares a common bond within the autistic community, each individual has their own personal circumstances and preferences that give them their own different and unique shade of autism

Illustration: Developed from the autism app wheel created by Mark Coppin in 2012

In addition, it’s important to recognise that there is a range of external organisations that provide research and evidence-based information. Learning from these organisations and their experiences can help you develop a comprehensive understanding of autism from a range of community members. Here are some examples, including an online course:

Autism Spectrum Australia – What is Autism?
Amaze  – Free online course to understanding autism
Autism Awareness Australia – Understanding Autism

You will also be able to find wide range of information across many different topics in our Resources section.

Key Points

  • While some common characteristics are shared amongst the autistic community, everyone has their own unique preferences and style!
  • There are a range of organisations that aim to support the autistic community and provide valuable information and research (see External Resources).


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