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The word 'spectrum' describes the range of difficulties that people with ASD may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning disability and require continued specialist support.

The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

People on the autism spectrum may also have:

  • unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
  • sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
  • intellectual impairment or learning difficulties

Autism Spectrum Disorder – Asperger’s

Asperger’s is one of the autism spectrum disorders. Adolescents and adults with Asperger often experience a number of problems: Appropriately recognising and communicating emotions, starting and maintaining friendships and relationships, finding and keeping a job, joining a network of colleagues and negotiating problems in the family. Adult Asperger’s is a mental health condition that has received media attention, partially due to very successful TV shows such as "Big Bang Theory" and "Doc Martin". Both shows feature a character who is suspected of having Adult Asperger’s Syndrome. Adults with Asperger’s are often very intelligent and well educated. Furthermore, adolescents and adults affected by Asperger’s often have a high level of awareness of the condition and many have formed strong identities as "Aspies".

Yet, there is a view among mental health professionals that Asperger’s in general is over-diagnosed and the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) development group of the American Psychiatric Association has proposed that this disorder be subsumed into an existing category: Autistic Disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Given that many people with Asperger’s strongly identify with the condition, there is currently a move to question the re-defintion of Asperger’s as part of DSM V.

Independent of the definition of the condition, many people with Asperger’s struggle in relationships and sometimes in the professional area as well. The inability to efficiently communicate emotional content (or to perceive emotions accurately) is too much of a challenge. In addition, partners struggle as well because of a lack of emotional awareness and sometimes a perceived lack of warmth in the relationship.

DSM5 ASD Diagnosis

Severity levels for autism spectrum disorder

Level 3
"Requiring very substantial support”
Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others. For example, a person with few words of intelligible speech who rarely initiates interaction and, when he or she does, makes unusual approaches to meet needs only and responds to only very direct social approaches
Inflexibility of behavior, extreme difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres. Great distress/difficulty changing focus or action.

Level 2
"Requiring substantial support”
Marked deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; social impairments apparent even with supports in place; limited initiation of social interactions; and reduced or abnormal responses to social overtures from others. For example, a person who speaks simple sentences, whose interaction is limited to narrow special interests, and how has markedly odd nonverbal communication.
Inflexibility of behavior, difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors appear frequently enough to be obvious to the casual observer and interfere with functioning in a variety of contexts. Distress and/or difficulty changing focus or action.

Level 1
"Requiring support”
Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to- and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.
Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

Information from…/dia…/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria

Links that you may find useful: 

Raising Children Network:

North Queensland Autism Group -

Camp Autism:

Cairns Autism Spectrum Group:

Autism Spectrum:


KTalk Community Autism Awareness:

Wots Normal:

Minds and Hearts:

Autism Queensland:

Sensory Tools:

The Adult Asperger's and Autism Social Group

To find out more about this group Phone Gwenyth on 4774 0637 or 
E: secretary