Autism has meant different things to different people since it was first classified in the 1940s. Originally defined as a rare psychosis which only affected children, the way autism was understood was very much a product of its time in the age of psychoanalysis.
Autism is now understood as a complex, invisible condition which a person is born with. Autism is a developmental condition which means that the way a person communicates, interacts and understands other people, and the world, is different to those who do not have the condition. It can be described as a “spectrum” which means it impacts different people, in different ways, to differing degrees at different times and in different situations.
In the below section we introduce the condition, its characteristics and the different elements of the condition