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About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


What is ASD?

About Autism Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental condition, which is characterised by deficits in the following two areas:
  • Impaired communication and social interaction
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours
Many individuals with autism experience sensory differences and difficulties. They may be under-sensitive or over-sensitive to any of the five senses. The word ‘spectrum’ is used because no two people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are exactly alike. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability and most people with autism will require varying degrees of support throughout their lifetime.
“To know one child with Autism is to know one child with Autism” – Anon.
Each child will vary in the combination and severity of the behaviours he/she displays and so may seem quite different even when compared to siblings with autism. The term ‘high functioning’ is not a diagnostic term; rather, it is often used to describe someone who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder but is not as severely affected in their autism and cognition.

1 Social Relationships

The child may:

  • be aloof – e.g. stand on the sidelines
  • avoid interaction with, and be disinterested in, peers and adults
  • not tolerate other children playing alongside him/her
  • want to join in but not know how – e.g. social rules, entering play or a conversation, invading others’ personal space
  • be unable to read the social cues of others – e.g. facial expressions, gestures

2 Communication

The child may:

  • be non-verbal
  • have little facial expression or use inappropriate gestures
  • take an adult by the hand to the desired object
  • have limited speech – e.g. single words, disordered speech/language
  • have a limited range of topics of conversation – e.g. only talk about the ‘here and now’, or about topics that are familiar to him/her (e.g. trains)
  • have difficulty reading the body language of others, especially facial expressions and emotions
  • have difficulty reading non-verbal cues or prompts – e.g. pointing
  • take language literally – e.g. idioms such as ‘Pull your socks up’

3 Behaviour

The child may:

  • be resistant to change – e.g. find it hard to cope with changes in everyday routines
  • have certain rituals – e.g. fixating on a certain object before hanging their bag on the hook
  • develop obsessions with objects, places or subjects – e.g. trains from the ‘Thomas and Friends’ series
  • develop unusual fears – e.g. being afraid of walking past wall heaters
  • have sensory overload with unusual body actions – e.g. flapping hands, covering ears, toe walking
  • have an excellent rote memory

4 Play/Imagination

The child may:

  • use objects/toys for sensory stimulation only – e.g. lining up, spinning, flicking, throwing
  • play with toys in the same way over and over
  • have limited skills for imaginative play
  • have difficulty inventing his/her own imaginary world
  • play alone much of the time

5 Cognition

  • The child may have significant cognitive impairment. Alternatively,   cognition may be within average range with a marked pattern of ‘splinter’ skills – e.g. a 3 year-old child may be unable to use language to request, decline or comment, but be able read at the level of a 6 year-old.

6 Sensory Processing

The child may be hypo-sensitive (too little) or hypersensitive (too much) to:
  • pain – e.g. a small graze on the arm may cause excessive reactions, while a fractured arm may induce no response
  • sounds or particular frequencies – e.g. supermarkets may be too loud for the child to cope with; however, the child may not react to high-pitched noises such as sirens and whistling kettles
  • light – e.g. bright lights versus darkness
  • touch – e.g. deep pressure versus light pressure
  • taste and/or texture of foods
  • types of smells
  • gait and posture may be odd
  • gross motor movements may be clumsy

Select a Tab to View Links

Victorian Websites

Statewide Autistic Services Inc

Day program, recreation and accommodation services, primarily for adults; children’s respite service

Gateways Support Services

Barwon and South Western region of Victoria – Early Intervention, family support, disability support; based in Geelong

Western Autistic School

Specialist autism school in Western region of Melbourne

Autism Teaching Institute (ATI)

The Registered Training Organisation (RTO) of Western Autistic School; provides Vocational Graduate Certificate and Diploma Courses specialising in teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Irabina Childhood Autism Services

Specialist Early Intervention Centre in Eastern region of Melbourne

Autism Behavioural Intervention Association

Supports families who choose Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) intervention for their child

ACT-NOW (Autism Consultancy and Training – NOW)

A training and consultancy program for Early Intervention workers; includes details of training programs, newsletters and information sheets

Autistic Family Support Association (AFSA)

A self funded, state-wide, voluntary parent based network, made up of parents with children on the Autism Spectrum to provide a voice for parents and carers

Wendy Lawson

Individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder; author, consultant and international speaker on autism

Donna Williams

<pIndividual with Autism Spectrum Disorder; author, consultant and international speaker on autism

La Trobe University

The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC), Australia’s first centre dedicated to research on Autism Spectrum Disorder


An organisation for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to help market their skills and expertise

Autism Plus

A service focusing on staff placement (agency and individual supports), training and case management

Time for a Future: Centre for Child Development

Based in Woodend, Victoria; services include assessment, diagnosis, therapy, parent education and professional development

Victorian Parent Support Groups & Other Networks

(On this website): support networks including a listing of Victorian Parent Support Groups

Australian Autism Spectrum Disorder State Organisations

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

New South Wales’ peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly Autism Association of New South Wales)

Autism Association of Queensland

Queensland’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Association of Western Australia

Western Australia’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Association of South Australia

South Australia’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Tasmania

Tasmania’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Association of the Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Northern Territory

Northern Territory’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Australian ASD Websites

Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders

The national peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly The Autism Council of Australia)

Autism Noticeboard

A place to advertise and find Autism Spectrum Disorder professional services

Asperger Services Australia (formerly the Asperger’s Syndrome Support Network (Qld) Inc

A parent support group in Queensland

A4 – Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia

A web-based parent advocacy group

Tony Attwood

Author, psychologist and international speaker on Autism Spectrum Disorder

International ASD Websites

National Autistic Society

The official site of the United Kingdom’s NAS – one of the largest Autism Spectrum Disorder organisations in the world

Autism Society of America

The official site of the primary organisation for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States

Autism Europe

An international association advancing the rights of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder by influencing European decision-makers

TEACCH Program

A United States website with information on the ‘Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children'; a highly regarded approach to teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Temple Grandin

Individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder; author, agricultural scientist and international speaker on “Autism as I see it”

Autism Online

A United States website providing information on products and resources as well as information in many languages

Government Websites – Victoria

DEECD (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development)

Provides Victorian Government information relating to Education and Early Childhood Development

DiVine – Disability Online

A community for and by people with a disability

Better Health Channel

Provides health and medical information to help individuals and their communities improve health and well-being

Community Development

Department of Planning and Community Development; for anyone working to help Victorian communities grow stronger – individuals, community workers, academics, policy makers and government workers

Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS)

Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD); Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) provide assistance for children with a disability or developmental delay from birth to school entry

Government Websites – Federal


Department of Human Services (DHS) Centrelink assistance

Raising Children Network

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) website providing information about services available


Department of Social Services website (formerly the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs or ‘FaHCSIA’.)

Other Useful Websites

Association for Children with a Disability

Information, support and advocacy for families of children with a disability

Your Shout

A website for adolescent siblings, by adolescent siblings of people with a disability


Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability

Carers Association Victoria

Provides information to support family carers

Early Childhood Intervention Australia – Vic Chapter

Supports families with children who have special needs

Parenting Research Centre

Formerly the Victorian Parenting Centre; shares knowledge to help parents raise happy, healthy children

Playconnect Playgroups

Specialist playgroups for children with  Autism Spectrum Disorder: find a playgroup near you

Speech Pathology Australia

The national peak body for the Speech Pathology profession in Australia: find a Speech Pathologist near you

Australian Psychological Society

The largest professional association for Psychologists in Australia


Social health network, connecting people and offering support and information

Find a carer

A useful site for finding carers in your area