How does autism affect independence in adults

What is autism

Diagnosis "Autism"

Autism spectrum disorders are "profound developmental disorders" and are defined as medical diagnoses under F 84 in the current ICD 10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems), the diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO). It will be between "Early Childhood Autism" (F 84.0), "Asperger syndrome" (F 84.5) and "Atypical Autism" (F84.1) differentiated. In practice, however, it is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate, as increasingly lighter forms of the individual disorders are diagnosed. Hence, today the concept of "Autism Spectrum Disorder" (ASS) is often used as a generic term for the entire spectrum of autistic disorders.


The characteristics of early childhood autism are particularly evident before the age of 3 and in three areas:

  • In dealing with fellow human beings,
  • in communication
  • in repetitive and stereotypical behaviors.

Special features in dealing with and communicating with fellow human beings

People with autism have difficulty assessing social and emotional signals, and they also have difficulty sending them out. Reactions to other people's feelings or behavioral adaptations to social situations are rarely appropriate. The imitation behavior of people with autism is also significantly restricted, which has an impact on the development of the “pretend so if” game and the imitation game.

In the area of ​​communication, the development of language use and language understanding are equally affected. As a result, mutual exchange of conversations, flexibility in speech expression and in speech melody are just as little pronounced as the development of accompanying gestures that would emphasize linguistic communication or underline its meaning.

Special features in behavior

The peculiarities of behavior are characterized by restricted, repetitive and stereotypical behavior patterns, interests and activities. Everyday tasks are carried out rigidly and routinely. Children can insist on performing certain routine actions in seemingly meaningless rituals. There can be repetitive occupations with data, routes or timetables. Motor stereotypes such as rocking, waving and spinning of things can often be observed, as well as an extraordinary interest in aspects of objects (e.g. how they smell or feel). People with autism can have major problems with changes in the course of action or details of their personal environment (such as changes in decoration or furniture in the apartment, changes in clothing, etc.) and can sometimes react very strongly to these changes.


Special features in the perception and processing of environmental and sensory impressions

In addition to these peculiarities in social interaction and in the behavioral repertoire of affected people, those affected have great difficulties with the perception and processing of environmental and sensory stimuli. You can very quickly get into a situation of overload with sensory impressions.
Link to video example: Sensory Overload


Associated psychological disorders and problems

In addition to these characteristics, people with autism are often also prone to a number of other accompanying psychological disorders, such as excessive fears, phobias, sleeping and eating disorders as well as challenging behavior in the form of outbursts of anger and behavior that is self-harming or self-harming. Most people with autism lack spontaneity, initiative, and creativity. You have difficulty making decisions about how to accomplish a task, even if the task could be accomplished cognitively.


Forecast and perspective

The characteristics of autistic disorders change with age. However, they persist in adulthood, with largely the same requirements in terms of socialization, communication and interests. They also differ from person to person in terms of their composition and degree of expression. Autism-related impairments can often be improved or compensated, but not cured. Most people with autism require lifelong help and support due to the extensive impairment, the degree of which can in turn vary widely. Autism is independent of the intelligence level, but the likelihood of an intellectual disability is increased.


Differentiation from Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's syndrome (F84.5.) Differs from other autism spectrum disorders primarily in that there is often no developmental delay or deficit in language or cognitive development. Most people with Asperger's Syndrome have a normal general level of intelligence, in some areas particularly high. On the other hand, abnormalities can be found in psychomotor development and social interaction.
Special features in the perception and processing of environmental stimuli and sensory impressions also occur frequently in people with Asperger's syndrome.
Link to video example: Asperger's perception



Unfortunately, there is no precise information on the frequency of autism spectrum disorders in Germany. The figures below therefore relate to studies in Europe, Canada and the USA.


Frequency of Autism Spectrum Disorders 
All autism spectrum disorders:6-7 per 1000
Early childhood autism:1.3-2.2 per 1000
Asperger's Autism:1-3 per 1000
Other pervasive developmental disorders:3.3 per 1000

Despite extensive research results, no comprehensive explanatory model has yet emerged that can fully and conclusively prove the causes of autistic disorders. As different as the causal factors for the syndrome have shown up to now, the educational and therapeutic approaches are just as diverse and geared towards the needs of the individual.

Info sheet "What is Autism?"

Our information sheet "What is Autism?" can be downloaded here.

"Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders"

The guide booklet is available free of charge from the office.
The online version can be downloaded here.

Autism in film and video sequences

In addition to the videos mentioned above, there are of course numerous other films and video sequences about and by people with autism. Below is a non-representative selection of linked films and videos on the topic:

"The I-Mask" - the autistic artist Gee Vero at "Menschen - das Magazin" (Sepember 2017)

"Living with Autism - Visiting Timo's World" in "nine and a half" (November 2016)

"Schwebeteilchen" - short film about Asperger's Syndrome (2017)