Autism Spectrum Condition / Disorder (ASC /ASD) is a spectrum condition, which means that there are varying degrees of severity. Autism can affect different people in different ways and, just like all people, those who have autism have strengths and difficulties. Autism is a lifelong condition, which affects communication and social skills. It usually is spotted in early childhood although girls tend to be diagnosed later. We do not know exactly what causes Autism although there have been many studies in this area; we do know that an early diagnosis can help a CYP learn strategies and skills and use resources to allow them to thrive.


In early childhood, children may:

  • Not respond to their name

  • Avoid or find eye contact uncomfortable

  • Not smile back at you

  • Be very sensitive or get upset at certain sounds, tastes and smells

  • Show repetitive movements such as rocking or 'flapping' hands

  • Not talk as much as their peers

  • Repeat words and phrases

  • Shows signs of distress if routines are changed

In older childhood, CYP may:

  • Not understand what others are thinking or feeling - show no empathy

  • Have difficulty talking about emotions or feelings

  • Show distressed behaviour if routines are changed

  • Appear obsessive about certain topics

  • Show distressed behaviour if asked to do something they do not like

  • Prefer to be on their own and / or have trouble making and maintaining friendships

  • Interpret language very literally


Diagnosing Autism is complicated as there is no visible difference in the brain. Only an appropriately qualified medical professional can diagnose Autism - a school CANNOT diagnose it. If Autism is suspected, then a conversation with the GP or the SENCo at school should be suggested. A referral to the paediatrician may be appropriate for full screening.

If a referral is accepted, a range of assessments will be completed and evidence will be gathered from a variety of sources such as school, parents/ carers / speech and language therapists etc. There may be a physical examination to rule out any other cause.

See here for further information on diagnosis if you suspect Autism.


The main thing to do is to understand that the CYP is the same as they were before diagnosis. There is no medication that will reduce Autistic symptoms but there are a wide range of strategies that can be taught and used to help the CYP live fully and thrive. Please see here for advice for parents / carers and here for school staff.


Please see here for further information. If you would like printable cards to explain your child's autism to others, please click here.


Please see below for ideas on how to help.

Poor eye contact

  • Gain student’s attention by using their name

  • Do not force the student to make eye contact as it can cause physical pain.

  • Check their understanding through questioning

  • Use a social story to show the importance of eye contact

Poor decision making skills

  • Act as a mediator for the students to help to resolve problems

  • Use social thinking skills to be proactive and promote resilience

Difficulty developing friendships

  • Ascertain whether making and maintaining friendships is an important wish for the child - often, it's the adults who insist on tis when a CYP is happier in their own company

  • If it is, teach the other CYP to understand and cope with the student’s difficulties and provide them with some awareness of how to communicate with him/her to prevent teasing or bullying, particularly in breaktimes

  • Use social thinking skills to be able to predict social scenarios

  • Consider the use of social scripts such as understanding that when someone ask how you are, it's a greeting and doesn't require a fully considered response

Poor social and emotional understanding

  • Teach specific social rules and skills, for example, turn-taking, the importance of personal space

  • Reinforce by using social stories

  • Use the Incredible 5 Point Scale to detail how it feels to experience a range of emotions and give strategies to self regulate / soothe

  • The CYP may need access to structured interventions delivered by specialists

Delayed language development

  • Support literacy with word processing and computer-based learning

  • Chunk information into small sections

  • Break down tasks with a visual timetable for the lesson

  • Always ensure that your language is clear and unambiguous

  • Avoid humour, sarcasm or irony

Difficulty sustaining conversation

  • Provide the student with support in open-ended and group tasks where there is a greater likelihood of them being misunderstood

  • Teach some conversation starters

Poor imagination

  • Provide visual support such as pictures or sensory cue sheets to aid descriptive writing

  • there may be an inability to imagine something he or she has not directly experienced so ensure that any imaginative work can be linked to a direct experience

  • Creativity is there but the CYP may find it difficult to imagine future events so try and avoid these kinds of tasks

  • Performing arts may be a difficulty; replication before creation can sometimes work

Obsessional behaviours and interests

  • You can allow some access to obsessional interest as a reward for positive behaviour in a sensitive and respectful way, allowing privacy for this if needed

  • However, resist allowing the CYP to continually steer the topic of discussion to his/her particular interest.

  • Use the obsessional interest in lessons where applicable to engage the CYP's interest - this doesn't have to be a whole class initiative but can be a way in for a child with Autism

Strong dislike of change

  • Where possible, provide a clear structure and a very obvious set routine for the day including playtimes and breaks

  • Ensure the CYP knows the programme for the day at the start of the day and specific reference can then be made to this throughout the day

  • A visual timetable may be helpful

  • Alongside this provision, explicit teaching of strategies to employ when change is unavoidable is required. Social stories or 'catastrophising' may help

Sensory Difficulties

  • CYP may have heightened sensory experiences, especially to noise, heat, smells, and touch so try to reduce any sensory overload in the classroom setting

  • Allow the CYP permission to withdraw if in distress - a time out card and an agreed plan of where to go and what strategies to use to self regulate is a good idea

  • Allow the CYP to avoid some activities which may be the cause of significant stress. For example, the CYP may find drama too noisy and not understand the creativity behind it. Plan for different learning opportunities for the CYP instead of the practical work

  • CYP with Autism can have restricted diets and may prefer to eat alone or in a small, quiet group. Facilitate this wherever possible

  • Some CYP experience distress with uncomfortable uniforms - a common one being the tie. Make adjustments wherever possible such as allowing the tie to be worn looser etc