National Autistic Society - What they do!
They help the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their families. They run specialist schools, campaigning for improved rights or training companies on being more autism-friendly. They are dedicated to transforming lives and changing attitudes. They are the UK's leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Since 1962, they have been providing support, guidance and advice, as well as campaigning for improved rights, services and opportunities to help create a society that works for autistic people.
Advice and guidance
They provide in-depth advice and guidance on the challenges autistic people and their families face.
Help and support
They have helplines and support service teams that deal with over 70,000 enquiries a year.
They have 116 branches across the UK, run by amazing volunteers.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.
Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like all people, autistic people have their own strengths and weaknesses. Below is a list of difficulties autistic people may share, including the two key difficulties required for a diagnosis. Click on the plus sign for more information.
Social communication and social interaction challenges
Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech while other autistic people have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice. Other challenges include:
taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts
needing extra time to process information or answer questions
repeating what others say to them (this is called echolalia)
Autistic people often have difficulty 'reading' other people - recognising or understanding others' feelings and intentions - and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard to navigate the social world. Autistic people may:
appear to be insensitive
seek out time alone when overloaded by other people
not seek comfort from other people
appear to behave 'strangely' or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate
find it hard to form friendships.
Repetitive and restrictive behaviour
With its unwritten rules, the world can seem a very unpredictable and confusing place to autistic people. This is why they often prefer to have routines so that they know what is going to happen. They may want to travel the same way to and from school or work, wear the same clothes or eat exactly the same food for breakfast.
Autistic people may also repeat movements such as hand flapping, rocking or the repetitive use of an object such as twirling a pen or opening and closing a door. Autistic people often engage in these behaviours to help calm themselves when they are stressed or anxious, but many autistic people do it because they find it enjoyable.
Change to routine can also be very distressing for autistic people and make them very anxious. It could be having to adjust to big events like Christmas or changing schools, facing uncertainty at work, or something simpler like a bus detour that can trigger their anxiety.
Over- or under-sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch
Autistic people may experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. For example, they may find certain background sounds like music in a restaurant, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. Many autistic people prefer not to hug due to discomfort, which can be misinterpreted as being cold and aloof.
Many autistic people avoid everyday situations because of their sensitivity issues. Schools, workplaces and shopping centres can be particularly overwhelming and cause sensory overload. There are many simple adjustments that can be made to make environments more autism-friendly.
Highly focused interests or hobbies
Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, often from a fairly young age. These can change over time or be lifelong. Autistic people can become experts in their special interests and often like to share their knowledge. A stereotypical example is trains but that is one of many. Greta Thunberg's intense interest, for example, is protecting the environment.
Like all people, autistic people gain huge amounts of pleasure from pursuing their interests and see them as fundamental to their wellbeing and happiness.
Being highly focused helps many autistic people do well academically and in the workplace but they can also become so engrossed in particular topics or activities that they neglect other aspects of their lives.
Anxiety is a real difficulty for many autistic adults, particularly in social situations or when facing change. It can affect a person psychologically and physically and impact quality of life for autistic people and their families.
It is very important that autistic people learn to recognise their triggers and find coping mechanisms to help reduce their anxiety. However, many autistic people have difficulty recognising and regulating their emotions. Over one-third of autistic people have serious mental health issues and too many autistic people are being failed by mental health services.