What is autism?

     by Inovar Autismo

Autism, or Autism Spectrum, is characterized by a change in neurological development, which begins in childhood and affects development throughout life (Frith, 2003). It involves a number of difficulties in different areas, including communication, social interaction and behavior. Some emotional, cognitive, motor and sensory difficulties may also be involved (Whitman, 2019). Autism manifests itself in different ways and in different people. The most important thing is for each individual to be recognized as a person.

Autism is not a disease, but rather a neurological developmental condition that involves differing levels of information processing. This means that the autistic brain has developed in a different way. For this reason, the autistic brain may struggle more in filtering out some sensory information, including noises, lights, smells, and therefore is required an extra effort to process everything at the same time.

Autistic people can often exhibit some repetitive behavior patterns (for example, shake the hands or body). To these behaviors we give the name of “stimming”. Stimming can be a way to calm and reduce anxiety, maintain awareness of one’s body, focus on concentration or deal with overwhelming sensations or emotions. The same behavior can serve different purposes in different people, or even in the same person at different times, depending on the situation or mood (example?).

Many people on the autism spectrum feel compelled to pretend they are not autistic. Many of them invest considerable effort daily in monitoring and modifying their behavior, observing other people, and imitating behaviors, ways of dressing, speaking, interacting, etc. (Vasconcelos, 2022). This phenomenon, which can be extremely tiring, is called “masking”.

Other useful questions on Teacher Island

Useful links to consult:


  • Frith, U. (2003). Autism: Explaining the enigma. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Papageorgiou, E. (2020) The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on the Emotional Education of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Views of Specialist Educators and Psychologists. Open Access Library Journal, 7, 1-24. doi: 4236/oalib.1106248.
  • Whitman, T. L. (2019). O desenvolvimento do autismo. Books Editora.