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Updated : August 1, 2022 6 mins read


Updated : August 1, 2022 6 mins read

It’s important to remember…

The information that we put together in these pages are for informational purposes and should never be used as medical advice or instead of advice given to you from a health professional.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then you should always speak to a mental health professional or your GP.

We do our very best to put together information that gives you a good understanding of mental health issues and what can help but it is not intended as medical advice and we do not take responsibility that it is accurate or up to date at the time of reading.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability, this means it affects how your brain works. Autism is not an illness, it is a condition that people are born with and have throughout their life.

What is autism?

Autism affects how people communicate, understand and interact with the world around them. There are around 700,000 adults and young people with autism in the UK. In Scotland around 1 in every 100 people has autism.

Some people think that autism is a mental health condition, it’s not. Although it is common for people with autism to experience mental health issues, it is not a mental health condition. You can’t develop autism or cure it and it is not something that you grow out of.

Living with autism may mean that your brain works differently to others, but this isn’t a bad thing, people with autism see things differently to people without autism (i.e. neurodiverse vs neurotypical). It is thought that some of the world’s greatest scientists were likely to be autistic, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin among them. We can’t know for sure that they had autism, because as a word it didn’t exist but it’s very likely they were on the spectrum. More recently actors such as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Daryl Hannah have spoken out about being on the autistic spectrum. As you can see, the world would be a very different place without people with autism!

What is neurodiversity?

Diversity is all about variety. If you think about your friends – none of them are exactly the same, they are diverse and different in their own way. Our brains aren’t any different. Neurodiverse refers to the different ways that the brain learns and processes information.

The autistic community started using the phrase to move away from the thinking that having autism is something that needs to be cured. Instead neurodiversity should be celebrated and seen as a positive.

It is thought that around 1 in 7 people have neurodevelopmental differences which include a range of learning disabilities and difficulties including ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, epilepsy and of course autism.

Types of autism

Autism is a spectrum condition, this means that the impact that autism has on your life is different for everyone on the spectrum.

Regardless of where you are on the autism spectrum, there are common characteristics that all people with autism experience:

Difficulties in communication, social interaction, inflexible thinking or imagination and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour.

What causes autism

Over the years, there have been lots of misinformation and misunderstandings about the causes of autism. Two of the biggest false causes of autism are bad parenting styles and having a vaccine as a child.

Research has proven what doesn’t cause autism but we’re still learning what does cause it.

What we do know that:

  • You’re born with autism – you can’t catch or develop it
  • It might be genetic

What is it like having autism?

Having autism is different for everyone who is on the spectrum. Although there are common difficulties that everyone with autism has, how much that affects you and how you manage them can be very different.

Is there a positive side to autism?

The simple answer is YES!

People who are on the autism spectrum have many strengths and abilities. Here are just a few:

  • Are highly motivated in their interests
  • Can concentrate for long periods on their interests
  • Are good at keeping to routines and schedules
  • Some people on the spectrum have amazing memories and can memorise information quickly
  • Good at knowing the facts
  • You can count on someone with autism to be honest with you
  • People with autism are good at following instructions, which makes them great to work with when set goals or deadlines
  • People with autism are not quick to judge others, they accept people for who they are

These are just a few examples of the positives of autism. As you can see there are many ways that living autism can make you a great student, employee and friend.

Support for autism

If you think you might be autisitc

If you think you might be on the autism spectrum, you will need to get a diagnosis from someone who knows a lot about autism. This might be a doctor or a trained autism practitioner.

If you feel that you can get the right support by learning more about autism and how to overcome difficulties then you may decide you don’t need to have a formal diagnosis. However, if you are hoping to get access to support or services then you might need a formal diagnosis.

You can ask about autism testing by:

  • Going to see your GP
  • Talking to your local Autism charity or network
  • You might be see a private doctor, but this will cost money

Finding out more about autism

Before seeing someone about autism, you may have to wait some time. It can be helpful to find out as much as you can about autism and what support you can put in place now to help ease any difficulties you’re having.

If you have been diagnosed with autism

It is important to remember that being diagnosed with autism isn’t a bad thing. You are not ill or need curing of something.

Simply, your brain is wired in a unique way.

Getting support isn’t about reducing or stopping your autism. It’s about making changes that support your autism and help you to cope with situations that you find difficult so you can live your life the way you want to.

Reasonable adjustments

You might hear the phrase reasonable adjustment when you have autism. Reasonable adjustments are changes that help you to study, work or get about your day.

Examples of reasonable adjustments:

  • Being able to work under a lamp or dimp lighting rather than bright fluorescent lights
  • Being able to have your lunch at a different time when it is quieter
  • Being able to enter or leave school (or place of work) earlier or later than others
  • Shops have autism friendly shopping hours. This can include lowering the lights or turning off music.

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.