Autism affects how people communicate, and how they see the world. Autistic people have particular strengths and difficulties. If you are autistic, you may have difficulties communicating and understanding other how other people think, feel and behave. This can affect how you make and keep friends. You may have really specific, strong interests that you enjoy. You may prefer set routines, and find change more difficult than other people seem to do. You may have different sensory experiences to most people – either hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, or feeling things more strongly than other people, or enjoying these experiences more.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that its different features affect people in different ways.
What causes it?
Autism is a lifelong condition, which means you are born with it and autistic people are autistic throughout their lives. Usually the signs of autism are noticed before children go to school, though they may not get a diagnosis until much later. No-one knows exactly how autism is caused, but it is a probably a genetic condition. It is not caused by vaccinations or “bad parenting”! It is not anybody’s “fault”.
Some people see autism as a disability; other people think it is a difference in how autistic people’s brains work.
Autism is quite common – just over 1% of people are autistic. So, in a high school of 1500 pupils, we might expect there to be at least 17 autistic pupils.
The world can be quite an overwhelming place if you are autistic. There are lots of things that can help. It helps if people around you understand your autism and how it affects you. You may need sensory strategies to help you with your sensory experiences (for example, quieter places to work or visit, something to twiddle – depending on what works for you). You may need a certain amount of time to enjoy your interests. There are communication tools that can help, like visual timetables, text reminders, or social stories – these explain what is going to happen, which can help autistic people feel less anxious. It can help to work on social skills and how you understand other people. This work is sometimes provided in schools or by professionals like Speech and Language therapists.
What CAMHS can do to help
CAMHS are part of the team who diagnose autism in children and young people. After diagnosis, your parents or carers should be offered some training sessions to help them understand autism and helpful ways to support an autistic person. Some people never need to come back to CAMHS after this. Some people do come back to CAMHS for extra help with mental health (feeling anxious or depressed for example). Some parents and young people come back for extra help to understand and change behaviour that is risky, or affects how the family gets on. Sometimes young people are having problems with their sleep, and CAMHS may help with this.
What can I/my carers do to help me?
Your carers can help by finding out about autism and how it affects you. They may need to change some things about your family routines and activities. They can help by working with professionals like teachers and therapists to find strategies that help you at school, home and other places you may want to go to.
You can help by trying these strategies and telling adults what works for you. It can also help to find out more about autism. Lots of young people with an autism diagnosis have written or produced vlogs about autism, how it affects them, and what helps.