Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non verbal communication.
Someone with Autism have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Some people with autism are unable to speak or have limited speech while others have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice. Other challenges include: taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts, needing extra time to process information or answer questions, repeating what others say to them (this is called echolalia).
Someone with Autism often have difficulty 'reading' other people -recognising or understanding others feelings and intentions - and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard to navigate the social world. Someone with Autism may: appear to be insensitive, seek out time alone when overloaded by other people, not seek comfort from other people, appear to behave strangely or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate, and find it hard to form friendships.
There are other areas to consider such as repetitive and restricted behaviour, over or under sensitivity to light sound taste and touch, highly focused interest and hobbies, and also extreme anxiety.
Repetitive and restrictive behaviour
With its unwritten rules, the world can seem a very unpredictable and confusing place to someone with autism. This is why they often prefer to have routines so that they know what is going to happen. They may want to travel the same way to and from school or work, wear the same clothes or eat exactly the same for for breakfast. Someone with autism often engage in these behaviours to help calm themselves when they are stressed or anxious, but many autistic people do it because they find it enjoyable. Change of routine can also be very distressing for someone with autism. It could be having to adjust to big events like Christmas or changing schools, facing uncertainty at work or something simpler like a bus detour that can trigger their anxiety.