Autism is different for everyone. Autism is a spectrum. This means everybody with autism is different. It's something you're born with or first appears when very young.
Being autistic does not mean your child has an illness or disease. It means your child’s brain works in a different way from other people.
Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a "cure". Some children need support to help them with certain things. Speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions are available to help children and parents.
Signs of autism in young children include:
- not responding to their name
- avoiding eye contact
- not smiling when you smile at them
- getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound
- repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
- not talking as much as other children
- repeating the same phrases
Signs of autism in older children include:
- not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- finding it hard to say how they feel
- liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes
- having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
- getting very upset if you ask them to do something
- finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own
- taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like "break a leg"
Autism can sometimes be different in girls and boys.
For example, autistic girls may be quieter, may hide their feelings and may appear to cope better with social situations.
This means autism can be harder to spot in girls.
If you or your child have signs of autism, the next step is to talk to someone about it.
You could speak to:
- a GP
- a health visitor (for children under 5)
- any other health professional you or your child see, such as another doctor or therapist
- special educational needs (SENCO) staff at your child's school
Ask them if they think it's a good idea to refer you for an autism assessment.
An assessment is done by autism specialists. It's the only way to find out if you or your child are autistic.
It's not always easy to get an autism assessment. Waiting times can also be very long. Support is available whilst waiting for diagnosis.
Alongside offering support your health visiting team can refer you for therapy from the Hillingdon Children’s Integrated Therapy Service (CITS) and specialist groups at Hillingdon Children's centres.
The main features of autism – problems with social communication and interaction – can often be recognised during early childhood.
Some features of autism may not become noticeable until a change of situation, such as when the child starts nursery or school.
You should speak to your child’s nursery, health visitor or GP if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of autism in your child, or if you're concerned about your child's development.
Read more about diagnosing autism on nhs.uk.
Being a carer isn't an easy role. When you're busy responding to the needs of others, it can affect your emotional and physical energy, and make it easy to forget your own health and mental wellbeing.
If you're caring for someone else, it's important to look after yourself and get as much help as possible. It's in your best interests and those of the person you care for.
There is lots of information about the care and support available to carers on NHS.uk:
- Care and support
- Carers' assessments
- Benefits carers are entitled to
- Carers' breaks and respite care
Hillingdon’s local offer provides information for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their parents/carers. It allows families to see what they can expect from a range of local agencies and how to access them.
It's not clear what causes autism.
Nobody knows what causes autism, or if it has a cause.
It can affect people in the same family. So it may sometimes be passed on to a child by their parents.
Autism is not caused by:
- bad parenting
- vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine
- an infection you can spread to other people
Read more about the causes of autism spectrum conditions on NHS.uk.