About autism

Autism is often called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

When people have autism we say they are autistic.

Many people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are autistic.

ASD around the world

You cannot always tell that someone is autistic just by looking at them.

Autistic person

Autism is a disability.

It is not an illness or disease.

It does not go away.

People are autistic for all of their lives.

Autism with age

Autistic people may also have other things like:

  • a learning disability
  • a mental health condition. This is when people may feel upset, worried or scared a lot.

Thinking about ASD

Autistic people can still do lots of things and learn new skills.

They just need the right support.

Helping those with ASD

What is it like to be autistic?

Everyone who is autistic is different.

Some people need more support.

Some people need less support.

Group of autistic people

What support may autistic people need?

Autistic people may find it hard to:

meet people and make friends

Friends with ASD

say what they need

say how they feel

Expressing feelings

understand how other people think or feel        

understand jokes or ideas that are not clear or that may mean more than one thing.

Think about it

Some autistic people may find other things hard like:

some smells, sounds or colours

bright lights

Bright lights

people touching them


Other autistic people may like these things.

Autistic people may have something they are very interested in.

Or something they are very good at.

Being good at art

This may be art, music or something else.

Autistic people may like to do the same things every day.


This helps them feel safe.

It can be hard for people to change things.

Sometimes things can feel too much for autistic people.

They may feel worried or scared.

Changing is hard

They may feel that people do not understand them.

Teasing without understanding

They may want to spend time on their own.

How do autistic people communicate?

Some autistic people may not speak. Or they may speak a bit.

Some autistic people use other ways to say things.

How to communicate

Like sign language or pictures.

Pictures not words

Some autistic people find it hard to know what other people say.

They may copy what other people say to make sure it is right.

Communicating with ASD

Or they may talk about their favourite subject instead.

Give them time

It can help to give autistic people:

clear information

enough time to understand what someone says

Why are people autistic?

Why autism?

No one knows why people are autistic.

It is not something that parents or autistic people do wrong.

Parents and family

Sometimes autism can pass from parents to their children.

Finding out if someone is autistic

Finding out if you're autistic

People can go to the doctor to find out if they are autistic.

The doctor may ask other health people to see if someone is autistic.

Doctor's help

It is good to find out if someone is autistic.

Autistic person receiving support

It can help them get the right support.

To find out more

You can get more information about autism from

The Autism Helpline 

Phone: 0808 800 4104

Minicom: 0845 070 4003

It is open from 10am to 4pm from Monday to Thursday. And 9am to 3pm on Fridays

Or The National Autistic Society website www.autism.org.uk

Pictures by Photosymbols