Autism (ASD)

What is it?

ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person perceives and relates to the world around them. The term ‘spectrum’ is used as no two people are the same. All people with Autism share certain strengths and difficulties, but these will affect each individual in different ways.

People with Autism experience difficulties in:

  • Social Communication and Interaction
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities
  • Sensory preference and sensitivities

There have been many different terms used to describe Autism. People will have their own preference to how they prefer the term to be used. As a team we have agreed to use the term Autism.

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What does ASD look like?

If you have autism you may learn to cope by developing routines and if these are interrupted, you’ll find it very stressful making unexpected changes in life sometimes quite a struggle.

You may also find challenging how you experience sights, sounds or touch.

School can be a tough place when you have autism. You really need support from your family, friends and your school who will know a lot about how to help you when you’re not finding things easy.

They will be able to support with putting different plans in place to make things easier for you.

Common experiences​

If you have ASD or autism you may sometimes:

  • struggle to get on with people socially
  • find it hard to understand other people’s emotions and feelings
  • find it difficult to clearly understand what people are saying
  • take things literally when they’re not meant that way or find sarcasm or jokes confusing
  • play in a repetitive way, preferring to play with objects rather than people
  • have difficulty starting conversations or taking part in them properly
  • develop a strong interest in particular activities or topics
  • enjoy having a familiar routine

Indicators for early age autism

  • Difficulty in understanding others’ feelings (referrer may describe it as “lack of empathy”)
  • Isolating / school refusing
  • Problems with social relationships and/or lack of interest in others
  • Known difficulties with social communication
  • Repetitive / ritualistic behaviour, or intense obsessive interest
  • Extreme reactions / black and white thinking, including emotional dysregulation or highly controlling behaviour
  • High levels of anxiety related to transitions and/or change
  • Sensory issues
  • Chronic constipation that is not explained by physical health; epilepsy
  • Speech delay, SALT input, Selective mutism; language which is unusual for age and culture (e.g. American accent, but never lived in US; vocabulary well above that of peers)
  • History of ASD / other neurodevelopmental conditions in the family
  • Previous services involved, ie. Educational Psychologist/Behaviour Support Service, and outcome
  • Stands out from other children of the same age (in the family or elsewhere) or just connects with children with similar presentation
  • Previous and current behaviour plans in place and outcome; are ASD friendly techniques being utilised with good effect?


Visit our ‘Taking charge of autism and anxiety’ page to view our online course for young people with autism and anxiety.


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Page last reviewed: 20 December, 2023