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Autism

Recognising and diagnosing autism

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people.

It is a lifelong developmental disability that can affect the way someone communicates and relates to other people. It is sometimes called Autistic Spectrum Condition, or Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism also have a learning disability or mental health issues.

Some people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity and these pages focus on support linked to this.

Signs of autism

Common signs of autism can include problems with communication and relationships with others, repetitive behaviour and struggling with changes to their routine.

The signs given here do not necessarily mean someone is autistic and autistic people may not show all the signs.

Signs in children

Children might:

  • have delayed speech development
  • display repetitive behaviour, like lining up toys or hand-flapping
  • be under or over sensitive to certain sounds
  • become intensely interested in a particular subject

Often these early signs can be spotted by parents, doctors or health visitors.

Signs in adults

Autism in adults can sometimes include being unsure about how to act in social situations, relying on having a set routine and feeling anxious about change.

People with high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome can perform well in certain areas, but might need support in others.

It's never too late to get a diagnosis. This can help with accessing support services and benefits, as well as helping others to understand the challenges autistic people face.

Getting a diagnosis

If you think you, or someone you know, might be autistic the first step to getting a diagnosis is speaking to your GP or health visitor.

If your child is at school, you can also contact the school's special education needs coordinator (SENCO) for advice.

Autism can go undiagnosed for years, but it's never too late to get a diagnosis.

You can find more detailed information about spotting autism and the process involved in getting a diagnosis on the NHS website.

Support through the diagnosis process

The National Autistic Society provides advice and support for adults and children going through the process of getting a diagnosis.

Special Needs and Parents is an Essex-based charity that can offer to help to families of autistic children and young people throughout the process of getting a diagnosis.

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