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awareness of yourself and others

This chapter provides information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Asperger’s Syndrome is part of the spectrum. ASD will be the term used in this booklet, as it is the most well-known term.

You may find this information helpful to gain greater awareness and insight into some of your thought processes and behaviours.

ASD is a lifelong developmental condition that impacts on a person’s ability to comprehend and interact with the world around them. The spectrum refers to the wide range of ways the condition can affect people. It can be characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication and sensory sensitivities. It can also be characterised by strengths in direct communication, focus on detail and perservance in pursuing information on areas of interest.

Many adults are being diagnosed with ASD. These individuals may have known that they were different, and a diagnosis can provide a context for their characteristic combination of behaviours, skills and challenges.

It is important to know that every person with ASD is different. You are the expert on how ASD affects the way you think, comprehend and respond to your experiences.


At 16, Tom was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He always knew he was different from his peers but could not understand why or how. He initially saw the school counsellor then a psychologist because of the bullying at school.

The Disability Coordinator at school provided some social skills training which assisted Tom greatly. In year 11, she included the TAFE Teacher
Consultant who specialised in Autism Spectrum conditions in Tom’s Post School Transition Planning meeting. This provided Tom with goals for the future. The courses proposed were within his interest range even though not his primary passion. (There were not courses in voice acting and Pokémon.)

Tom was included in a Transition and Orientation group at the TAFE. This short course gave him the opportunity to become familiar with his new environment, the people he would be working with and get to know other students with ASD. This helped reduce his anxiety about the changes in his life. During his courses at TAFE, Tom initially received some in-class support to help him focus, and some social skill coaching. As Tom’s in-class skills improved, the support decreased to assistance for organisational and time management skills.

Diagnosis changed Tom’s life and he is now very proud to call himself an ‘Aspergian’. Currently he is a public speaker educating others about his life story and working for Autism Spectrum Australia as a blogger, online magazine writer, future leader, script writer and presenter. Thus, he has fulfilled all his passions, interests and skills. He has made friends, has a girlfriend and is positively influencing the lives of other young people on the Spectrum.

Most of the people around you are not on the Autism Spectrum. They can be referred to as neurotypicals (NTs). It is useful to compare how people with ASD and people without ASD interpret and respond to situations.

Exercise 1 (linked below) compares the common characteristics of people with ASD and the common characteristics of an NT person. You will probably identify with most of the common ASD characteristics to some degree. Remember everyone is different and every person with ASD will not have all of the ASD characteristics and not every NT person will have all the NT characteristics.

Highlight the characteristics that could affect your studies. Select the ones that most relate to you. They can be from either column. At the end of the table, there is space to add any others that you think are important for you. You could discuss these with someone who knows you well to get some feedback. This exercise will help to identify particular characteristics that might affect your tertiary studies.

    question & answer

    Question: Some neurotypicals I know feel uncomfortable in social situations. Does this mean that they have ASD?
    Answer: No, many neurotypicals may feel this way. Especially if it is a new group they are mixing with. Some people can take time to understand the social expectations and rules for a new group. It can take confidence to get to know new people or interact in some situations.

    Question: I can identify with many of the characteristics of a person with ASD but not all of them. What does this mean?
    Answer: Every person with ASD has different characteristics and can express these differently. It is a spectrum and each person may display a combination of the typical characteristics to varying degrees.

    more information