What is autism?

Last updated at 14:09
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WATCH: Angel wants more kids to know what autism is

Imagine doing a talk in front of your whole school. That's exactly what eight-year-old Angel has done and she has a very good reason why.

Her older brother Jayden is autistic and she wants more kids to know what that means, and what it is like having a brother or sister with the condition.

Autism can affect the way someone communicates with other people and how they make sense of the world.

What is autism?Getty Images
Find out more about autism and how you can recognise it
What is autism?

According to the National Autistic Society, autism affects more than 1 in 100 people.

It is thought that there are more than 700,000 people in the UK who are autistic, but every person with autism is different!

In fact, autism is known as a spectrum disorder - which means that there's lots of different kinds and ways that someone might express or be affected by autism.

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My Autism and Me - Rosie, who has autism, tells us what life is like for her and what makes her so unique

Here are a few ways in which someone with autism might experience life differently to someone not on the autistic spectrum:

  • They may prefer their own company at times and enjoy playing alone. Sometimes, they might find it hard to make friends.
  • Loud, bright and busy situations can make them feel stressed and can even cause them physical pain; this includes places like supermarkets and noisy classrooms.
  • Someone with autism might have a 'meltdown' - this often happens when a situation has been overwhelming for them.
  • Understanding other people's emotions might be difficult. For example, a smile or a frown might not be immediately understood by someone with autism.
  • Repetition and routine can help a person with autism feel more comfortable - playing the same game, eating the same kind of food or repeating an action.
  • School and learning can at times be harder for someone with autism, and they may need support and understanding from teachers and their classmates.
  • Someone with autism might understand common phrases or jokes differently to someone not on the spectrum - a sarcastic joke or a positive phrase like "That's cool!" could be interpreted literally.

These are just some of the ways in which someone with autism could experience the world differently to someone not on the autism spectrum.

It's important to remember that a different way of experiencing the world is not necessarily a bad way.

Lots of young people with autism have unique views on life that can be appreciated by others.

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Alex tells us what it's like living with autism
What is it like living with autism?

There will be people you interact with every day that have autism, and every single one of them is unique.

Some people have very severe autism, which means they might need lots of support throughout their life. They might struggle to look after themselves without the support of their family or carers.

But the majority of people with autism will lead lives where they need less obvious support from those around them.

This is why it is often seen as a hidden condition - it is not always clear if someone has autism, and many people go undiagnosed.

How can you support someone who is on the autistic spectrum?
Angel and Jayden sat on a tree
Angel says she loves her brother Jayden because he is happy, kind and clever

Angel supports her brother at home as much as she can.

She says Jayden will often only speak to his family and he'll hide things he has made himself.

Angel says she loves Jayden because he is kind, clever and funny.

But sometimes she says she feels lonely if he doesn't want to play with her or that it feels unfair because he often gets his own way.

To help others understand what it is like having an autistic sibling, Angel has been doing special assemblies, including one at her new school.

Two boys hugging on a benchGetty Images
If you are worried about autism, make sure to share how you're feeling with someone you trust

Every person on the autistic spectrum is different - if you want to support someone you know, it is important to understand what matters most to them.

Here are some examples of ways you might want to support a person on the autistic spectrum.

  • Think about the noise and lighting in your classroom, or even on the playground - could it be overwhelming for someone with autism?
  • Try to help when they ask for support at school or at home - maybe you can work on a difficult problem together?
  • Including them in games or conversation - lots of people with autism can be made to feel left out if someone doesn't invite them to join.
  • Ask for their perspective on things - they might have a unique or interesting opinion that can help you understand them better.
  • And make sure to give them space if they need to be by themselves or are upset by something.
  • If you are worried about them, speak calmly and find a supportive adult who can help.

Autism is unfortunately not always understood by other people.

By helping your friends and family understand and identify autism can really help communities better understand the condition and support people on the spectrum.

If you have autism or you are concerned about someone who has autism, it is also very important you share how you feel with someone you trust.

Make sure to always speak to a trusted adult or friend who can support you with how you're feeling.


  • View all (5)
  • Comment number 5. Posted by reading potter stargazer

    15 Oct 2018 20:38
    So confident! Last year my friends and I did a fundraiser to raise money for autism. We raised Β£216 and it was so much fun!

  • Comment number 4. Posted by U17207219

    15 Oct 2018 18:37
  • Comment number 3. Posted by Violin Kitty

    15 Oct 2018 10:40
    OMG i cant belevie you went infront of the whole school
  • Comment number 2. Posted by pinkfluffyunicorn

    15 Oct 2018 9:28
    That is so sweet. She is very confident. I love the fact that she is raising awareness as I have a brother who is autistic so I get how she feels.
  • Comment number 1. Posted by BlueElite99

    15 Oct 2018 8:10
    Anyone notice it said bother?