An introduction to what autism is and how it affects people
Find out what the main signs of autism are and if you should get advice
Find out how to get diagnosed as autistic and how a diagnosis can be helpful
Information and advice if you or your child have recently been diagnosed as autistic
Information and advice if you care for an autistic child
Find out which conditions often affect autistic people, what the symptoms are and when to get help
Find out where to get support if you or your child are autistic, such as charities and your council
Information about autism in an easy read format or video if you have a learning disability
People react to a diagnosis of autism in different ways.
For some, it's a relief to find out why they or their child think, feel and act the way they do. For others, it can be a shock.
Try to give yourself time to come to terms with the diagnosis.
- help and support is available
- even if things are hard now, they can get better
- you or your child are still the same person as before
- autism is not an illness or disease with treatments or a "cure"
- autistic people have things they're good at as well as things they need help with
You might feel alone when you or your child are first diagnosed.
But there are places you can get support.
You can get help from:
- local support groups
- national charities
- other autistic people or parents on social media and forums
- your school, college or workplace
- your local council
- your GP or the autism assessment team that diagnosed you
Some people find it helpful to find out about other people's stories of autism.
You could also search online for autism blogs, videos or books.
Remember, autism is different for everyone. What happened to other people might not be the same for you or your child.
Autism is not an illness. But many autistic people also have other conditions.
These are not always checked for during an autism assessment.
See a GP if you have any concerns about your or your child's health. They can help you get any extra care you need.
It might help you and your family to find out more about autism.
There can be quite a lot to take in. You do not have to read everything.
You can get trusted information from:
Telling people close to you about your or your child's autism diagnosis can help them understand how to support you.
They may be able to help with:
- everyday things so you have more time to focus on yourself or your child
- emotional support
National Autistic Society
For autistic adults and children, and their families.
- Website: www.autism.org.uk
Ambitious about Autism
For autistic children and young people, their parents and carers.
The assessment team that diagnosed you or your child should give you information on local support groups.
You can also search for local groups using the National Autistic Society services directory.
Social media and forums
There are many people with experience of autism offering support and sharing their stories on forums and social media.
You do not have to talk to others in online groups, but it can be helpful to look at what they're saying.
A good place to start is the groups run by autism charities. But bear in mind the NHS does not monitor these sites.
Comments on social media and forums are often based on personal experience and should not be taken as advice that would help you or your child.
- National Autistic Society Facebook group
- Ambitious about Autism Facebook group
- Actually Autistic for autistic adults
- Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE)
How to use Facebook if you're new to it.
How to use Twitter if you're new to it.
Forums and communities
You can get support to make things easier for you or your child.
Find out what help is available at:
- nursery or school – speak to teachers or a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
- college or university – speak to student support services
- work – speak to your manager and human resources (HR)
Your local council
You can get some support and financial benefits from your local council.
What's available depends on your situation.
For children and young people
For people under 25, ask your council about their "local offer".
This is the name for the support they provide for young people with special educational needs.
Every council has to have a local offer.
You can also get advice about the local offer from your local special educational needs advice service. Find your nearest information, advice and support (IAS) service on the Council for Disabled Children website
If you're an autistic adult or care for an autistic adult, ask your council for a needs assessment.
This is an assessment to find out:
- what problems you're having with everyday life
- what support or financial benefits you might be able to get
For parents and carers
If you look after someone who's autistic, ask your council for a carer's assessment.
This is an assessment to find out what support or financial benefits you might be able to get to help you care for an autistic person.
If you think you or your child needs help from a health professional, speak to a GP or the assessment team that diagnosed you.
They may be able to refer you to a specialist who can help, such as:
- an occupational therapist
- a speech and language therapist
- a mental health specialist
- National Autistic Society: what is autism?
- National Autistic Society on YouTube: what is autism? video
- General Medical Council: going to the doctor (PDF, 1Mb)
- Mencap: telling the doctor you have a learning disability (PDF, 2.2Mb)
- Seeability: having an eye test (PDF, 1.3Mb)
Annual health checks
Going into hospital
Autism and your health
Medicines for related conditions
Money and financial benefits
- Department for Work and Pensions: get help from Personal Independence Payment (PDF, 4.3Mb)
- Department for Work and Pensions: how to claim Personal Independence Payment (PDF, 4.9Mb)
- Financial Conduct Authority: easy read guide on everyday banking (PDF, 886kb)
- Mencap: community care needs assessment (PDF, 492kb)
- Mencap: money you can get to pay for help and support (PDF, 1.3Mb)
Symptoms of ADHD include:
- finding it hard to concentrate and getting distracted easily
- acting without thinking
- finding it hard to sit still
People with ADHD may need extra support at school or work. Sometimes they need to take medicine.
Dyslexia and dyspraxia
Some autistic people have:
- problems with reading, writing and spelling (dyslexia)
- clumsy movements and problems with organisation and following instructions (developmental co-ordination disorder, or dyspraxia)
Extra support at school can often help.
Problems sleeping (insomnia)
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- finding it hard to go to sleep
- waking up several times during the night
- waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep
Changing your bedtime routine can often help.
Mental health problems
Many autistic people have problems like:
- feeling very worried a lot of the time (anxiety)
- feeling unhappy, irritable or hopeless (depression)
- feeling a need to keep doing certain actions (obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD)
These conditions can often be treated with talking therapies or medicines.
A person with a learning disability may find it hard to:
- understand new or complicated information
- learn new skills
- look after themselves
People with a learning disability often need help with daily life.
Symptoms of epilepsy include:
- shaking and collapsing (called a "fit" or seizure)
- staring blankly into space
- strange smells or tastes
- tingling in your arms or legs
Epilepsy can often be treated with medicine.
Problems with joints and other parts of the body
Some autistic people may have:
- flexible or painful joints
- skin that stretches or bruises easily
- diarrhoea or constipation that does not go away
You may need support from a range of health professionals, including a physiotherapist.
See a GP if:
- you're autistic and think you might have another condition
- your child is autistic and you think they might have another condition
- you have another condition and think you might be autistic – if you already see a doctor for your other condition, you could speak to them instead