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What is autism spectrum disorder?

The terms autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism cover a wide range of conditions. The ‘spectrum’ bit describes the fact that people with autism share certain difficulties, but are all affected in slightly different ways.

If you have ASD or autism you may struggle:

  • to get on with people socially
  • to clearly understand what people are saying, or what they’re not saying, but meaning (called nonverbal communication). You may take things literally when they’re not meant that way or find sarcasm or jokes confusing
  • with repetitive behaviour
  • with learning difficulties or disabilities, or you may not.
Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a type of autism. Most people with Asperger syndrome don’t have a learning disability, but often find understanding feelings and relationships difficult.

What does autism look like?

Autism can affect day to day life. If you have autism you may learn to cope by developing routines and if these are interrupted, you’ll find it very stressful.

You may also struggle with how you experience sights, sounds or touch, finding you’re very sensitive or have a lack of sensitivity (so that’s back to the spectrum!)

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

Find out more

For useful resources about ASD, how it affects people and how and where to get support check out The National Austism Society website.

Top tips for getting help

Check things out, what people say or mean, don’t be afraid to ask someone to explain further what they mean.
People illustration Talk to someone. If you are feeling stressed try and spend time with someone you feel you can talk to about your feelings, this will help to avoid them building up to a point where you may feel you cannot cope.

If you are feeling stressed, take time to relax. Perhaps try some breathing exercises: try sitting in a quiet distraction free room, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing, try taking slow breaths, breathing in for a count of four and breathing out to the count of four.

Notes illustration

If you are struggling to express how you are feeling try writing it down.

Join groups of other people with similar difficulties to share experiences and gain confidence.

If you have something important you need to say to someone and are worried, then ask someone that you trust to help you to work out the best way of saying it.

More helpful info

Ambitious about Autism is a national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change.

Young Minds have some really simple and useful information exploring 'What is autism'.

You can find out more about Autism on The National Austism Society website.

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