Autism is a complex developmental disability. It is considered to be a spectrum disorder, which means that the degree to which people are affected by it varies from mild to severe. Latest research indicates that autism affects approximately 1 in 100 people (approx half a million people in the UK).
Whilst the degree to which each person is impacted by autism may vary, there are common characteristics of an autistic spectrum disorder:
- impairment of verbal and non-verbal communication
- difficulties with developing social relationships
- lack of flexibility leading to repetitive or routine-bound behaviours
- impaired imaginative ability in play or creativity, for example, when writing
- sensory processing difficulties
People with autism sometimes also have additional co-existing conditions such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), dyslexia or dyspraxia.
Autism is a lifelong condition which affects people of every race, background and gender, although it is more prevalent amongst boys than girls. As yet, the causes of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remain unknown. As it is such a complex disorder, it is likely that there are multiple factors which involve both genetic and environmental triggers.
Just as the causes of autism remain unclear, it is also the case that there is as yet no ‘cure’ for autism. Research demonstrates that fewer than 10% of adults with autism have sufficient skills to enable them to live any form of independent life, and 60% of adults with autism will remain entirely dependent on others for all aspects of their adult lives.
We strongly believe that effective education and early intervention will provide the best chance for each individual with autism to develop their potential. The most recent survey shows that there are only 7,500 specialist places for over 90,000 children with autism in the UK.
The lifetime care costs for someone with high functioning autism is estimated to be £3.1 million and for an individual with low functioning autism, that figure rises to £4.6 million. These figures illustrate the real cost of autism, and give serious weight to the argument that more resources are needed, to intervene early and effectively in the lives of those who are affected by the condition. Early intervention would help individuals with autism and their families to experience a better quality of life and reduce the high costs incurred in later years, saving public money.
At Quest School we firmly believe that the education we provide for our students will significantly change their prospects for their adult lives. Whilst not all our students will eventually be able to live independently, our aim is to maximise the opportunities that are available to them. We believe they are all capable of making a positive contribution to their community both at school and during their adult lives, as well as living a full and interesting life.