Information for the public



People with autism have difficulties interacting and communicating with people in social situations and also have restricted interests and rigid and repetitive behaviours.

Autism affects children and young people in different ways, but the main signs include:

  • problems communicating with other people, such as not saying much or sometimes not speaking at all, having an unusual way of talking, saying certain things over and over, or only talking about things they like

  • problems showing how they feel or what they think, and problems understanding and responding to how other people show their thoughts and feelings

  • not knowing how close they can get to other people

  • finding it hard to make friends and play with them or preferring to be alone

  • reacting strongly to certain smells, sounds, textures, or to any change in routine

  • making unusual hand or body movements again and again.

A child or young person with autism may find it more difficult to settle to sleep or have problems with feeding or with what they eat.

Some people with autism may also have a learning disability, a mental or physical health problem (to find out more, see the Other medical and mental health problems section) or sometimes they may become upset or aggressive (for more about this see the Behaviour that challenges section). Although there is no cure for autism, providing care and support can help with some aspects of autism and other problems that children and young people with autism may have.

Autism is used in this information to refer to autism spectrum disorder, autistic spectrum condition and Asperger's syndrome.

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