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Autism spectrum disorder

  • 1 in every 100people are affected by autism
  • 7 in 10 people with autism have a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression
  • £2 millionis spent on research each year into Autism in the UK

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disorder characterised by difficulty with social interaction and communication, and a narrow set of interests and repetitive behaviours.

Autism is a spectrum condition. This means that while all people with autism share the same difficulties, the condition affects everyone differently and so they will need different levels of support. Anxiety disorders are common alongside the condition, and people may also experience other mental health conditions like depression.

People with autism find it difficult to understand other people's emotions and feelings, often struggle to make eye contact, like a rigid routine, and may also be over or under-sensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. Many people with autism have learning disabilities although people with a type of autism called Asperger syndrome are of average or above average intelligence.

Children may play in a repetitive and unimaginative way, language development may be delayed, and they may repeat words or phrases spoken by others (either immediately or later).

We don’t know what causes autism, but we do know that a number of factors, genetic and environmental, affect brain development and play a role in increasing the risk of autism.

Autism is not an ‘illness’ and cannot be ‘cured’. There are however many interventions that can be helpful for people with autism to enable learning and development.

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Need help?

Get information and advice on anxiety disorder at NHS Choices. If you're having a mental health emergency find out who to turn to using our urgent help and advice resource.

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