Autism can affect the way a person interacts, communicates, behaves or relates to other people.
The official term for autism is ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD). This is because the way autism affects an individual varies widely.
An autistic person sees, hears and feels the world differently. Some people with autism need extra support, especially if they also have other conditions such as a learning disability or a mental health condition. However, many autistic people are able to be independent, without extra support in place.
Autism in children
Autistic children can respond in different ways. For example, an autistic child may not respond when you call their name. They may also struggle to give eye contact. An autistic child can also sometimes find it difficult to pick up on social ‘cues’, for instance if you smile at them, they might not smile back because they don’t understand this way of interacting with others.
Some autistic children also experience a sensory processing disorder. This means they can be more or less sensitive to sounds, taste, sights, smells and textures. Sometimes, exposure to these things can cause a ‘sensory overload’.
For example, if a child is sensitive to noise and crowds, being in a noisy place with lots of people could be distressing and lead to an immediate change in their behaviour.
If you suspect that your child has autism, you may want to get a diagnosis.
This is your personal choice, but often a diagnosis can help to access support to ensure your child’s needs are being met.
The first step towards getting a diagnosis is to make an appointment with your GP. Keeping a list or diary of the behaviour triggers and characteristics that your child has been showing will be really helpful for your GP.
Once you have seen your GP, they can make a referral for assessment. Getting a formal assessment may be a lengthy process, but it could lead to a diagnosis. During this time, speak to your child’s school to explain the situation and to ensure any extra support can be put in place to help them.