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What is it?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition, sometimes referred to as autistic spectrum condition. The condition will affect individuals in different ways but the five diagnostic criteria are described as:

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction
  2. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests of activities
  3. Symptoms present in the early developmental period
  4. Clinically significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning
  5. Disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay

Many people with autism may experience some form of sensory sensitivity or under-sensitivity, for example with, sound, touch, taste, smell, light or colour.

They may also have other conditions, such as a learning disability or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The autistic spectrum

The word 'spectrum' is used because the condition affects individuals in very different ways.

It can be hard to create awareness of autism. Parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty. Adults with autism can find that they are misunderstood. 

Young people with special educational needs or disabilities

If you are looking for information, advice or services relating to a child or young person with a disability you may find it helpful to look on the Hillingdon local offer within the Family Information Directory . Knowing what is out there gives you more choice and therefore more control over what support is right for your child.


How do I get a diagnosis

A diagnosis is the formal identification of autism, by a health professional such as a paediatrician or psychiatrist.

Having a diagnosis is helpful for 2 reasons:

  • It helps people with autism (and their families) to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them.
  • It enables people to access services and support.
  • GPs can refer people to a healthcare specialist who is able to make a diagnosis.

Parents and carers can ask a GP for referral.

Please follow this NHS Choices link if you would like to find out more about diagnosis.

Other support needs

Autism is very often diagnosed alongside other conditions, such as:

  • dyslexia
  • dyspraxia
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • learning disabilities

It's important to support people with more than one condition in a way that meets all their needs. We must also understand that the difficulties caused by autism are distinct to those caused by the related condition.

Please visit The National Autistic Society website to find out more about related conditions.

What do all the terms and acronyms mean?

Please see The National Autistic Society's jargon-buster to find out more.

Further information

We are keen to provide information about organisations that can help you, the following links are for national organisation that provide further information.

Asperger's Syndrome Foundation
Provides advice, information and training.

Autistic Rights Movement (ARM) UK
Campaigns for and promotes rights for people with autism, raises awareness and works with professionals and organisations to improve services, facilities and conditions for autistic people.


Provices research-based, outcomes-focussed services for people with learning disabilities and autism. They also offer vital specialist services including sector leading Positive Behaviour Support alongside supported living and residential care. They give details of autism friendly environments in your area including cinemas and libraries.

BBC Health: Autism and Asperger syndrome
Advice and information with links to related news stories.

The National Autistic Society
Provides information, support and pioneering services and campaigns for a better world for people with autism (including Asperger syndrome) and their families.

Netmums: Autism and Asperger's
Parenting organisation which includes support groups linked to special needs and autism.

Last reviewed: 16/07/2018

Useful links


While every care has been taken in the compilation of the information on this website, neither Hillingdon Council or PCG Care Solutions will be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of using the site and any inaccuracies/errors within these pages.

If you choose to purchase services via the Marketplace, you are advised to refer to the Buyers Guide prior to making a purchase, as well as making your own enquiries and seeking independent advice. This is applicable to Adult services only, as there is no Marketplace for Children's services.