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Autism FAQ’s

Below are some frequently asked questions about autism:

What is autism?

Autism usually appears in the early years of a child’s life. It is complex and can affect a person’s communication, relationships, social skills, and self-regulation. It is known and often referred to as a spectrum because each person’s experience will vary a lot. Early intervention, therapies and education will help that person lead a life of choice and opportunity.


What causes autism?

There is not one known cause for autism. It is something you are born with rather than something you catch or develop over time. It has been proven by researchers from Statens Serum Institut and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and Stanford University School of Medicine in the US, that vaccines and certain types of foods do not cause autism. Vaccinating your child is important to protect them from other illnesses.


Can autism be cured and can autism go away?

Autism is a lifelong condition; it is something you are born with and is usually identified in early childhood. It cannot be ‘cured’; if diagnosed early, education and where appropriate, therapy can help with the child’s development and communication, so they can live a life full of freedom and opportunity.


Does autism run in families?

Autism can sometimes affect people in the same family. The direct impact of genetics on autism is unknown however, so we don’t know if autism can be inherited.


What are main characteristics of autism?

There are many different signs and indicators of autism in adults and children, which can often be mistaken for other conditions. It’s important that if you suspect you, or someone you love has autism, then seeking a diagnosis could help with getting the support that is available.


Some of the common signs of autism in young children:

  • Not responding to their name
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not smile when you smile at them
  • Becoming very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell, or sound (sensory overload)
  • Engaging in repetitive movements, such as rocking back and forth or tapping surfaces
  • Not talking as much as their peers
  • Repeating the same phrases


Some of the common signs of autism in older children and adults:

  • Not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling, or being able to empathise with that person
  • Finding it difficult to talk about their feelings
  • Like having a strict daily routine and may become very upset if it changes
  • Having a very keen interest in very specific subjects or activities which some may consider obsessive
  • Finding socialising and making friends difficult or preferring to be on their own
  • Taking things very literally – for example, not understanding phrases like “break a leg”


How do I find out if I’m autistic?

If you identify with any of the common signs of autism; difficulty in understanding what others are feeling, anxiety in social situations, difficulty with changes in routine or any of the others listed above, there are steps you can take. Try speaking with your GP or a psychologist about getting a referral. Or there may be an autism centre in your local area that you could speak to. Find out more about diagnosis.


Do boys and girls have autism?

Yes, both boys and girls can have autism. It is quite common that the signs of autism often manifest differently, are missed or diagnosed as another condition within girls. Autism in boys is more frequently recognised than autism in girls. This has led to the wide held belief that only boys have autism and not girls, which is in fact not true, and because of this, can sometimes make it harder for girls to receive the help and support they need. Read our blog post for more information on autism and women.


Can you develop autism as an adult?

Autism can only be diagnosed when the signs have been present from early childhood (i.e. before 3). It is possible to receive a late diagnosis if the signs have always been present. If you or someone you know has suddenly developed behavioural or communication issues which were not present before, then this is likely down to another condition. You cannot develop autism in adulthood. If autism is suspected or even another condition, then this should be investigated.


Is there anything I can do to prevent my child from having autism?

You cannot do anything specific to prevent your child having autism; however, your child will grow and develop with the right education, support, and therapies.


Why are sensory activities important for autistic people?

Sensory activities help stimulate the brain and cognitive skills, develop social skills, and improve coordination and physical development. Some people are sensory seekers and others will avoid situations.  Everyone’s sensory needs are different. Some sensory activity is also used for relaxation and comfort.


What is masking?

Masking is a very common trait in autistic people, especially girls. Masking is where an autistic person will consciously or unconsciously try to hide certain behaviours. They may stop themselves flapping their hands or making a noise to fit in with societal norms. This can lead to people not getting the support they need. As a society we need to be more inclusive so that people can feel comfortable being themselves.


Why are autistic children considered naughty?

Some people believe that autistic children are naughty or poorly behaved. This belief, especially if shared with the child, can be incredibly damaging to the child’s metal wellbeing, as well as spreading misconceptions. Behaviour serves a function and should be viewed as a form of communication. Some autistic people communicate differently because their understanding of communication is different. We prefer to call some of these types of behaviour ‘behaviours that challenge’ as it is much more respectful to that child and their family. Behaviours that challenge can stem from feelings of frustration or being in an overstimulating environment. Consideration should be made about what the triggers are for that behaviour so they can be resolved, rather than just punishing the child. This approach is true for all children not just those who have autism.


What’s it like having autism?

Everyone feels differently about their autism. Some people may be uncomfortable discussing it and other people view it as an important part of their identity. It’s always worth checking how that person feels and what their preferences are before discussing with them.


Can you have autism and be social?

Autism is different for everyone. Some autistic people find reading body language or understanding peoples’ emotions difficult and therefore find making friends tricky. They may also feel anxious in certain social situations. However, that doesn’t mean this is the case for everyone.

Local support groups, in person or online, are a great place to meet people with similar interests. Take a look at our autism services directory to find out what’s available in your area. Schools may also be able to provide lessons around social skills which you can also work on at home.


Is OCD a form of autism?

There are similarities between the two, but OCD is not a form of autism. Fixations on routine and compulsive like repetitive behaviours can be found in both. For an autistic person these behaviours are often soothing or bring enjoyment, whereas with OCD the compulsions can be upsetting to the person.


Why is my autistic child having problems sleeping?

It’s not uncommon for autistic children to have sleep issues. There are a range of factors that contribute to this including increased anxiety, additional sensory needs and diet. These, amongst other circumstances, can impact upon sleep, causing your child to have too little or too much sleep. There are lots of things that you can do to support your child with their sleep. Sleep support strategies like keeping a diary, having a regular bedtime routine with visual timetables and ensuring the bedtime environment is appropriate can all help. For more information, read our blog on autism and sleep, which covers the issues and support strategies in more detail.


For more information take a look at our online training courses.



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