About Autism

Understanding Autism

How we understand and view Autism is potentially different to the views you have heard elsewhere.  You see, Reframing Autism is Autistic-led.  Our perspectives on Autism don’t just come from professional training or university study or book-learning. They come from our lived experiences as professionals, as parents, and, most importantly, as Autistic people. 

We have lived as Autistic individuals our entire lives, and we each have a deep, personal knowledge of what it is to live Autistically.  It is that experience that informs what we do and why we do it. 

What is Autism?

At Reframing Autism, we think of Autism as a brain difference that is basic and fundamental to who we are. This means that Autism is an important part of who we are and the way we are in the world.

Autistic people develop differently to non-autistic people. Autistic people think, move, interact, sense and process differently to what people might expect. We also have more qualities and characteristics in common with other Autistic people than with non-autistic people. Each person is different, but Autistic people will be different to non-autistic people in the way we:

  • Socialise and communicate,  including the way we connect, make and understand friendships and relationships, and use speech and body language
  • Think and process,  including the way we see patterns and connections, imagine and play, experience and express our senses, emotions and executive functioning, and in the way our brains develop

These differences can look different for children and adults. Read more below.

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Socialising & communicating

Often, one of the first signs that a child might be Autistic is that their language and social skills develop differently to typically developing children. In terms of socialising and communicating, an Autistic child might:

  • Enjoy playing alone as much as (or more than) playing with others;
  • Play in ways that may appear unusual, like lining up toys, sorting toys into categories or types, or exploring different elements of toys;
  • Be drawn to friends with similar interests, even if they are much older or younger;
  • Prefer highly structured social interactions, like gaming;
  • Need accommodations when using speech to communicate, or they may not use speech as frequently or fluently as other children to communicate. This is called “expressive language”;
  • Need extra time when processing speech. This is called “receptive language”;
  • Not show social interest in the way that is usually expected. This might mean they may not use eye contact or they may point to indicate that they want your attention;
  • Use stimming behaviours like flapping, jumping, or spinning to express emotions and communicate. An example of this is “happy flapping” to show joy;
  • Use frequent echolalia. Echolalia means the repetition, or “echoing”, of a phrase or words.

This is not a complete list, and your child’s developmental path is unique to them. Their experience will look different to other Autistic and non-autistic children’s.

These differences in Autistic children’s socialising and communicating are not “good” or “bad” – they are just Autistic ways of being in the world and interacting with it and other people. Autistic children do not lack “social skills”: they may lack non-autistic social skills, and may show organic, Autistic social skills instead.

A young boy is on the playground. He is holding a dandelion and laughing joyously at the camera.

Thinking & processing

The way that Autistic children’s brains develop is different to their same-age, typically developing peers. Some differences include how Autistic children engage in their interests and how they interpret sensory input. In terms of thinking and processing, you might notice that Autistic children:

  • Have a single abiding interest, around which all play, enjoyment and learning revolves;
  • Have many, many deep interests, which can be all-consuming, even if they don’t last a long time;
  • Display significant differences in the way they process information including sensory stimuli. For most Autistic children, sensory processing differences are complex and unusual responses to sensory input across the five main senses, but also including the vestibular/movement, proprioceptive/body awareness, and interoceptive/internal bodily signals systems;
  • Are sensory seeking (seeking specific sensory input), sensory avoiding (also called sensory defensive, or avoiding specific sensory input), or  a combination of both;
  • Display different sensory preferences in the way they experience or respond to food.

This is not a complete list, and a child’s developmental path is unique to them, so will look different to other Autistic and non-autistic children’s.

These differences in Autistic children’s way of thinking are not “good” or “bad” – they are just Autistic ways of being in the world and interacting with it and other people. Autistic children do not lack “processing skills”: they may lack non-autistic processing skills, and may display organic, Autistic processing skills instead.

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The truth about Autism

Myths, stigma, stereotypes and misinformation still surround Autism. We want to change that. At Reframing Autism, we do not use the word “disorder” to describe our Autism. Instead, we talk about ourselves as different, not disordered, because Autism is not a disease or an illness, and it is not curable or treatable. We want to change the lens so that society can see the strength in Autism, its value, and its beauty. Here are some truths about Autism.
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Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

The Reframing Autism team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we have the privilege to learn, work, and grow. Whilst we gather on many different parts of this Country, the RA team walk on the land of the Amangu, Awabakal, Bindjareb, Birpai, Whadjak, Wiradjuri and Yugambeh peoples.

We are committed to honouring the rich culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Country, and the diversity and learning opportunities with which they provide us. We extend our gratitude and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to all Elders past and present, for their wisdom, their resilience, and for helping this Country to heal.

Join us on the journey to reframe how society understands Autism