Autism West Midlands logo

What is autism?

Our longer information sheet ‘A Guide to Autism’ can be downloaded here:

A GUIDE TO AUTISM and also: Autism Information in Alternative Languages

Autism, sometimes called autism spectrum disorder or condition, is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect the way a person:

  • Communicates and interacts with others
  • Experiences their senses
  • Thinks and behaves

Asperger Syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA) are also conditions on the autism spectrum, sometimes called subtypes.

Autism is a lifelong condition that is present from birth, even though it may not be apparent until later. It is not the result of an illness or of any trauma a child may have experienced.

Autism is referred to as a spectrum condition because each person is different and has their own strengths and challenges. Some autistic people require significant support in their daily lives, while others need less support, and many autistic people live independently.

Some autistic people have other conditions alongside their autism such as a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia) or epilepsy.

Autistic people can often experience anxiety and some autistic people may have mental health conditions alongside their autism such as anxiety and depression.

Whilst we do not fully understand what causes autism, research has shown that there is a genetic link and that it can present in other family members through generations. However, autism can also appear in families for the first time.

There are increasing opportunities for support for individuals to be part of the community; access supported living; additional support at university; in the workplace, however there is still more to be done. Much has been achieved in raising awareness of autism in the past years and moving forward we support the autistic community in the pursuit of understanding and ultimately, acceptance.

For more information about autism and how to support autistic children and adults visit our information resources below.