Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. It is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.
Some autistic people say the world feels overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety. In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder.
How autism is diagnosed?
The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another, but in order for a diagnosis to be made, a person will usually be assessed as having had persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, activities or interests since early childhood.
What causes it?
The exact cause of autism is still being investigated. Research into causes suggests that a combination of factors – genetic and environmental – may account for differences in development. It is not caused by a person’s upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual with the condition.
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