07 December 2022

​Understanding ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects each person in unique ways. Students with ASD may need support making sense of the world and how to participate in it.

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Autistic spectrum disorder or ASD is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that may affect communication, social interaction, and cognition (thinking). Asperger syndrome is part of the autism spectrum.

Video hosted on Youtube

This animation aims to raise understanding and acceptance of autism. Designed to be shared with adults and children, it tackles the complex subject of autism with simple descriptions and positive language.

Indications of ASD

Although every student with ASD will experience it differently, common characteristics may include:

  • a strong desire to seek understanding and perfection
  • hypersensitivity to sensory experiences
  • intense fascination with a topic
  • a focus on detail rather than the “big picture”
  • direct speaking with a tendency to be honest and specific
  • valuing creativity and problem solving over cooperation and collaboration
  • actively seeking and enjoying solitude
  • challenges with the managing and expressing emotions
  • literal interpretations of what people say
  • challenges interpreting and responding to social cues.

A diagnosis of ASD is made on the basis of observed behaviour. There are no blood tests, single defining symptom, or physical characteristics that are unique to ASD. Clinicians use careful observation of behaviours to determine whether a child’s difficulties are related to autism, or are better described by another condition.

 The impact of ASD varies from person to person, and its effects vary for an individual depending on the situation and the person's emotional state.

Video hosted on Youtube

13-year-old Rosie explains what it's like to grow up with autism – a condition which affects how children see life, and the way they relate to others.

Influence on learning

Students with ASD each have different strengths and preferences as learners. They experience their own set of challenges.

Common strengths and preferencesCommon challenges
Strong preference for well-planned, structured, predictable, routine-based environments Coping with change, unfamiliar routines, a lack of structure
Strong preference for quieter, clutter-free, organised spaces Sensory regulation
Special interest in particular topics and activities Settling into learning
Processes visual information quickly Processing and making sense of things, abstract thinking
Strong rote memory, retaining particular facts and details Expressing information and ideas
Honesty Verbal communication, social interaction

Expect diversity when teaching students with ASD

Some students may need help with all day-­to­-day tasks.

Others may need: 

  • support in specific areas
  • extended opportunities to explore and develop exceptional gifts and talents. Explore Twice-multi exceptional learners for more information.

Next steps

Return to the guide “ASD and learning”