Autism FAQ.  This section covers some questions you may have about Autism. The information has been provided by the National Autistic Society. They provide support, guidance and advice.

Their helpline number is :0808 800 4104

If your enquiry is about support in school they have a specialist Education Service. Fill in the online form

About Autism

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. Some people with autism may have an accompanying learning disability, learning difficulty or mental health problems.

Autism is a spectrum condition. This means that while all people with autism share certain difficulties, the condition affects each person differently. One form of autism is Asperger syndrome. People with the condition are often of average or above-average intelligence. They have fewer speech problems than people with other types of autism, but may find it difficult to understand and process language.

While some people with autism live independent lives, others may need a lifetime of specialist support. Autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect on individuals and families. However, getting the right support makes a substantial difference to those diagnosed and their loved ones.

What causes autism?

There are more than half a million people with autism in the UK, around 1 in every 100 people. If you include their families, autism touches the lives of over two million people each day. The causes of autism are still being investigated. According to the National Autistic Society (NAS), there is strong evidence to suggest autism can be caused by a variety of environmental or neurological factors, all of which affect brain development. There is also evidence to suggest genetic factors are responsible for some forms of autism. What we do know is autism is not caused by a person's upbringing and is not the fault of those with the condition. There is no cure for autism. But there are numerous interventions (learning and development techniques) that can help.

How does autism affect people?
Autism affects the way a person communicates with and relates to other people. It also
affects how they make sense of the world around them.
Everyday life for people with autism can be confusing, frightening and lack meaning. They
often find understanding and communicating with others particularly difficult, which can
leave them feeling isolated.
People with autism may also experience some form of sensory sensitivity or a lack of
sensitivity - for example, to sound, touch, taste, smell, light or colour.

They can experience a wide range of symptoms, which are often grouped into two main categories.

Problems with social interaction and communication
This can include problems understanding and being aware of other people's emotions and
feelings. It can also include delayed language development and an inability to start
conversations or take part in them properly.

Restricted and repetitive patterns of thought, interests and physical behaviours
This can include making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting,
and becoming upset if these set routines are disrupted.

Children, young people and adults with autism are often also affected by other mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety or depression.

About half also have varying levels of learning difficulties. However, with appropriate support many people can be supported to become independent.

Children with more severe symptoms and learning difficulties are likely to need more care and assistance to live independently as adults.

Other related characteristics of autism

Love of routines
The world can seem an unpredictable and confusing place to people with autism, which is why they often feel more comfortable with a fixed daily routine, so they know what's going to happen each day.

Sensory sensitivity
People with autism may experience sensory sensitivity in one or more of the five senses - including sounds, sights and smells - which they can find stressful. A person's senses are either intensified (hypersensitive) or lack sensitivity (hyposensitive). For more information on sensory sensitivity in autism, visit the NAS website.

Special interests
Many people with autism have intense special interests, often from a young age. These can be anything, from art or music to trains and computers.

Learning disabilities
People with autism may have learning disabilities that can affect all aspects of their life, from studying in school to learning how to wash themselves or make a meal.