What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong, neurodevelopmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured'.

The definition of autism has changed dramatically over the decades and may continue to change in the future, the changes of the definition allow more people to receive a diagnosis, allowing more people to gain support when needed.

Today estimations suggest that there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children (one in 100 people) living in the UK.

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Autism is a spectrum condition because the autism spectrum is so broad each individual is different to one another, autistic people may share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways.  

Some autistic people also have learning, mental health difficulties or other conditions, meaning each individual may need different levels of support.

​All people on the autism spectrum have strengths and weaknesses and are able to learn and develop with the correct support. 

Autism can affect different areas of development such as:


Social Communication

  • rarely using language to communicate,

  • not responding when spoken to,

  •  struggles to use/understand physical gestures e.g pointing at objects or waving goodbye

  • Unable to recognise/use facial expressions to communicate.

  • Prefers to play alone, does not engage in imaginative play.

 
Repetitive Behaviour

  • Lining up toys in a particular way e.g. in straight lines or categorising them repeatedly.

  • Speaking in a repetitive manner or repeats what has been said to them (echolalia).

  • Has strong/high interests in one particular object, etc.

  • Relies on routine e.g. has to put clothes on in a certain order/ or walk a certain way to the shop, etc.

  • Has difficulties changing from one activity to another.

  • Sensory sensitivities e.g. does not like the feel of certain materials/labels in clothes, does not like the feel of certain textures or smells, etc

Signs of Autism in Children and Adults to help identify ASC

Signs of autism in young children include:

  • not responding to their name

  • avoiding eye contact

  • not smiling when you smile at them

  • getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound

  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body

  • not talking as much as other children

  • repeating the same phrases

Signs of autism in older children include:

  • not seeming to understand 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 very keen interest in certain subjects or activities

  • getting very upset if you ask them to do something

  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own

  • taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like "break a leg"


Autism can sometimes be different in girls and boys.


For example, autistic girls may be quieter, may hide their feelings and may appear to cope better with social situations.
This means autism can be harder to spot in girls.

Common signs of autism in adults include:

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling

  • getting very anxious about social situations

  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own

  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to

  • finding it hard to say how you feel

  • taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like "break a leg"

  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes


You may also have other signs, like:

  • not understanding social "rules", such as not talking over people

  • avoiding eye contact

  • getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you

  • noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not

  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities

  • liking to plan things carefully before doing them


Autism can sometimes be different in women and men.


For example, autistic women may be quieter, may hide their feelings and may appear to cope better with social situations.
This means it can be harder to tell you're autistic if you're a woman.

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What Next?


If you do have any concerns then we suggest contacting your GP (or health visitor dependant on child's age) who will then be able to start the referral process.
There is no cure for autism BUT early intervention and support can have a huge impact on an autistic person's life ensuring that their needs are being met. 

Receiving a diagnosis for yourself or for a family member such as your child can be a daunting and lonely experience, try and not to worry we assure you that you are not alone! There are a variety of charities and groups across the North West of England who are able to offer support, services and funding 

Social media can also be a great way to connect with other's in a similar situation, not only with people from around the world but also within your local community too.

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