What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong, neurodevelopmental condition which affects how people see the world and interact with others. It first appears when people are very young, often from birth.

Being Autistic doesn’t mean you have an illness or disease it just means your brain works differently. Because it’s not an illness or disease it cannot be cured so those with Autism will have it for their whole lives.

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning every Autistic person is different. Some may need little or no support where as others may need help from a parent or carer every day. Some may also have other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Anxiety, Depression or Epilepsy. Whilst each Autistic person’s brain works differently, they will have common struggles such as difficulties with social communication, social interaction and behaviour that will affect their everyday life.

Although Autism is medically known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) it is also referred to as:

  • Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) – used instead of ASD by some people
  • Asperger’s / Asperger Syndrome – used by some people to describe autistic people with average or above average intelligence

For more info: https://www.autism.org.uk/

What causes autism?

It can affect people in the same family so it may have a genetic link but the actual cause for Autism isn’t known.

What we do know is that Autism is not caused by:

  • Bad parenting
  • Vaccines – such as the MMR vaccine
  • Diet
  • An infection – you can’t spread it to other people

How do I know if I/others have Autism?

Autism can present its self differently in different people. Some common signs of autism can include:

  • Getting upset by certain tastes, smells or sounds
  • Getting overwhelmed by bright lights or loud noises
  • Getting upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
  • Taking longer to understand information
  • Not talking as much as other children
  • Repeating the same phrases
  • Repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
  • Having difficulty understanding what others are thinking or feeling
  • Finding it hard to say how they feel
  • Liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes
  • Having a Highly focused interest in certain subjects or activities
  • Getting upset if asked to do something
  • Finding it hard to make friends or
  • Preferring to be on their own
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Taking things literally – not understanding phrases like “break a leg”
  • Difficulty understanding facial expressions, jokes or sarcasm

What helps?

Getting a thorough assessment and diagnosis as early as possible is helpful because It will help you, your family, teachers, friends and future employers to understand your situation and figure out the best ways to support you. It will allow you to access specialist services and support.

How can I help myself?

As every Autistic person is different there’s no specific list of things you can do to help. You may be able to help yourself or you may be relying on support. What would help is identifying the things that cause you stress and anxiety and try to minimise these. For example, if your particularly sensitive to loud noises then try carrying around a pair of sound cancelling headphones. That way if you know part of your school is noisy or you suddenly find yourself in a noisy room you or your support can use the headphones to block out the noise and relieve your stress.

Myth buster #1

Myth: People with autism can’t understand emotions.

Fact: People with autism perceive and communicate emotions differently. They might not be able to detect emotions based on the someone’s body language or tone of voice. However, when emotions are communicated more directly, people with autism are much more likely to understand emotions.

Myth buster #2

Myth: People with autism are intellectually disabled.
Fact: Many people with autism have normal to high IQs and some may excel at math, music and other subjects.

Useful resources


Discussion forums for autistic people, their families and network run by the National Autism Society


100 games specifically designed for children with autism

The Spectrum

A free quarterly magazine written by and for people on the autism spectrum

Need help now?

If you need to speak to someone urgently call your GP or family doctor!


NHS 24/7 helpline : 0800 038 5300
Childline up to 19 yrs: 0800 1111
The Samaritans: 116 123
In an emergency go to A&E or call 999