What is Austism Spectrum Disorder?

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It includes Asperger syndrome and childhood autism.
  • The main features of ASD typically start to develop in childhood, although the impact of these may not be apparent until there is a significant change in the person’s life, such as a change of school.
  • In the UK, it's estimated that about one in every 100 people has ASD. There is no 'cure' for ASD, but a wide range of treatments – including education and behaviour support – can help people with the condition.
  • ASD can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are often grouped into two main categories:
    • Problems with social interaction and communication – including problems understanding and being aware of other people's emotions and feelings; it can also include delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly.
    • Restricted and repetitive patterns of thought, interests and physical behaviours – including making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting, and becoming upset if these set routines are disrupted.
  • Children, young people and adults with ASD are often also affected by other mental health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)anxiety or depression.
  • About half of those with ASD also have varying levels of learning difficulties. However, with appropriate support many people can be helped to become independent.

Getting Help:

  • Autism features can often be recognised in children before the age of two or three years. However for many, the signs will often only become more noticeable as they get older.
  • See your GP or health visitor if you notice any of the symptoms of ASD, or if you’re concerned about your child’s development. You can discuss your concerns together in depth before deciding whether your child should be referred for specialist assessment. It can also be helpful to discuss your concerns with your child’s nursery or school.

How to Manage ASD

  • There are many different types of intervention for ASD and it can be hard to judge which one will work best for your child as each person with ASD is affected differently.
  • Any intervention should focus on important aspects of your child's development. These are:
    • communication skills – such as the ability to start conversations
    • social interaction skills – such as the ability to understand other people's feelings and respond to them
    • cognitive skills – such as encouraging imaginative play
    • academic skills – the ‘traditional’ skills a child needs to progress with their education, such as reading, writing and maths
  • Treatment for ASD often involves a team of different specialists working together, such as a paediatrician, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a speech and language therapist and an occupational therapist.

All information from NHS Choices