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. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
Autism is a spectrum condition and whilst all autistic people share certain difficulties, autism will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have mental health issues, learning disabilities or other conditions.
Some autistic people say the world feels overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety. This often takes the form of struggling to understand and relate to other people, whilst seeing that those around them seem to intuitively know how to communicate and interact with each other. People with autism may wonder why they are ‘different’ and feel their social differences mean people don’t understand them.
Autism is much more common than most people think: there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100.