Autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) describes a range of conditions that includes autism and Asperger syndrome.

People with ASD have a delay or difficulty in three areas of development:

  1. Language skills – they have trouble understanding and using spoken language and non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language.
  2. Social behaviour – they have trouble understanding social interactions, which affects their ability to play or interact with others.
  3. Cognitive and thinking skills – they have trouble thinking and behaving flexibly, and may engage in restricted, obsessive or repetitive behaviours.

As children grow and develop, there are a number of milestones they usually reach in these three areas. A person with ASD will have a delay or difficulty in all three areas of development.

ASD is thought to affect 1 in 100 New Zealanders.

Every person with ASD is different.

They might have:

  • severe problems in each area
  • mild problems in each area
  • more difficulty in one or two areas.

These difficulties will vary as they age. They also depend on factors such as their gender, personality, family and cultural circumstances, and intellectual ability.

Getting help early is good for your child’s development.

If you think your child might have ASD, or if you’re concerned about their development, talk to a health professional. They’ll be able to assess your child and, if necessary, refer them for diagnosis.

Related websites

Altogether Autism
An information and advisory service for people with ASD, their families, whānau and the wider New Zealand community.

Ministry of Education
Find out what the Ministry of Education is doing about autism spectrum disorder.

Autism New Zealand
An organisation offering support, training, advocacy, resources and information on ASD including Asperger Syndrome.

IDEA Services
IDEA Services provide three fully funded autism programmes to families throughout New Zealand for children under the age of 19 years with a diagnosis of autism.

An initiative of the Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand.

Cloud 9 Children’s Foundation
Support and information for children and teenagers with Asperger syndrome and their families.

MSD Family Services Directory
The Family Services Directory can help you find local support for you or your family member.

The Werry Centre
The Werry Centre has been contracted by the Ministry of Health in consultation with the Ministry of Education to develop a training resource for specialists

Find out more from the Ministry

The New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline covers diagnosis and treatment of ASD, supporting and teaching children and adults with ASD, employing people with ASD and living with ASD.

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