About Autism

About Autism

What is Autism Spectrum Condition?

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) or Autism is a developmental disorder that affects how a person communicates with and relates with other people.

ASC is also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because there is a wide variation and severity of symptoms people experience.

Who does autism affect?

Autism can affect anyone. But it is mostly detected during the first three years of a child’s developmental life.

Is Autism an illness?

Being autistic does not mean the person is ill. It means their brain works differently from other people.

Autism is not a medical condition with treatment or cure. However, some autistic people may need support in one area or another to help them thrive happily.

Autism in children

Autism normally manifests during the first three years of a child’s life. A child may be presumed to be autistic if he/she is not meeting age-related developmental milestones. Normal developmental milestones include eye contact, using one, two, three word syllables or even phrases and short sentences.

Can I seek spiritual help for my child's condition?

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition. Spiritual help does not heal autism. Your child’s health and safety must always come first. Also, remember autistic children can experience sensory-related anxiety in certain environments. Have this in mind and make sure your action relates to your child’s needs.
Autism is not caused by witches or genies. Your child is not possessed. The family is not bewitched. With the right support, your child can live a happy and fulfilling life.

What causes autism?

Autism has no known cause but has been linked to natural tendencies (genetics) and the environment.
Researchers believe certain genes a child inherits from his/her parents could make them prone to having autism.
Researchers also believe a child could be prone to autism if they are born prematurely or exposed to alcohol or certain medications while in the womb.

What to do if you susspect your child is autistic?

If you notice your child is not showing normal developmental symptoms like his/her mates. It is best advised you speak with your child’s class teacher, your GP or health visitor. They can support you on the steps towards having a diagnosis and all the relevant support.

How to manage ASC?

Autism can be managed with the help of speech and language therapy, Lego therapy, Occupational therapy, and lots of other support from your child’s school.

Signs of ASC in children

Delayed speech in children or not speaking at all
Repeating words and phrases
using single words instead of a sentence
Speaking ‘at’ people rather than ‘with’ people.
Avoiding using sentences
children with ASC don’t normally respond when their names are called.
They are not aware of other people’s ‘personal space’ and are intolerant to other people entering their ‘personal space’.
Some rarely use facial expression
They avoid eye contact
They do not enjoy interacting with other people. They enjoy being on their own.
They play with toys repetitively
They have repetitive movements such as flapping their hands.
They have a strong like or dislike for certain food depending on the colour or texture of it.
Some take every speech literally and do not understand sarcasm or metaphor in speech.
They do not normally understand social interaction such as when to say hello, goodbye, to speak or be quiet.

However, every autistic child has a distinct character, and it is always best that a diagnosis is done for clarity.

Sensory sensitivity and ASC

Many people with ASC experience what is called sensory sensitivity. They can be over or under-sensitive to one of the senses, sound, light, taste, body awareness, balance and touch. Their senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – take in either too much or too little information from the environment around them.

Neurotypical or non-autistic people have sensory variation too, which often disappears as they grow older. These sensitivities tend to last longer in autistic children and sometimes decrease over time. Although not all autistic people have sensory experiences, some might have several.

Hypersensitivity– When autistic people are oversensitive or over-reactive to sensory experiences, it’s called hypersensitivity. Hypersensitive people might cover their ears when they hear loud noises or eat only foods with a certain texture.

Hyposensitivity– When autistic people are under-sensitive or under-reactive to sensory experiences, it’s referred to as hyposensitivity. Hyposensitive people might wear thick clothes on a hot day, or repeatedly rub their arms and legs against things. Nevertheless, some autistic people can have both over-sensitivities and under-sensitivities in different senses, or even the same sense at different times. For example, they might be oversensitive to some sound frequencies and under-sensitive to others.

Sound- When sound is under-sensitive, autistic people might only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or none. They may not acknowledge sounds and might enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects. On the other hand, when sound is oversensitive, noise can be magnified, and sounds become distorted and jumbled. They may be able to hear conversations in the distance and may also be unable to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

Smell- When some autistic people experience sensitivity to smell, they may have no sense of smell and fail to notice extreme odours (this can include their own body odour), some may even lick things to get a better sense of what they are. However, when the smell is over-sensitive, it can be intense and overpowering. This can cause toileting problems, a dislike for people with distinctive smells, perfumes, shampoos, etc.

Taste- When taste is under-sensitive for autistic people, they may dislike very spicy foods, eat or mouth non-edible items such as stones, dirt, soil, grass, metal, and faeces. This is known as pica. Yet, taste under-sensitivity could lead them to find some flavours and food too strong and overpowering because of very sensitive taste buds, have a restricted diet, certain textures cause discomfort, and they may only eat smooth foods like fufu or ice cream. Some autistic people may limit themselves to bland foods or crave very strong-tasting food. If someone has some dietary variety, this isn’t necessarily a problem.

Sight- When sight is under-sensitive, autistic people may find objects appearing quite dark, or lose some of their features. Central vision may appear blurry but peripheral vision is quite sharp. A central object may be magnified but things on the periphery blur. They may also experience poor depth perception, problems with throwing and catching and clumsiness. On the other hand, when sight is over-sensitive, autistic people experience distorted vision; objects and bright lights can appear to jump around, images may be fragmented, they may squint when out in sunlight, they may find it easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object. They may also have difficulty getting to sleep due to sensitivity to light.

Touch- Under-sensitivity to touch could lead autistic people to hold others tightly because they need to do so before they feel the sensation of having applied any pressure. They may have a high pain threshold, be unable to feel food in their mouth and may even self-harm. They may enjoy heavy objects (eg. heavy blankets) on top of them. Some may even smear faeces as they enjoy the texture, chew on everything, including clothing and inedible objects. Touch over-sensitivity in autistic people may include touch feeling painful and uncomfortable – some autistic people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others. They may dislike having anything on hands or feet, difficulties brushing and washing hair or teeth. They may find many food textures uncomfortable and only tolerate certain types of clothing or textures. They may have a strong dislike for labels on the inside of clothes.

Balance (vestibular)- Autistic people also face sensory differences with their balance. Under-sensitivity to balance may include the need to rock, swing or spin to get some sensory input or move in a poorly planned and uncoordinated way. Over-sensitivity to balance may involve difficulties with activities like sports, where we need to control our movements, difficulties stopping quickly or during an activity, car sickness, and difficulties with activities where the head is not upright, or feet are off the ground. Some may be very agile.

Body awareness (proprioception)- Our body awareness system tells us where our bodies are in space, and how different body parts are moving. Some autistic people also face sensory difficulties with their body awareness. Under-sensitivity to body awareness may include standing too close to others, because they cannot measure their proximity to other people and judge personal space, finding it difficult to navigate rooms and avoid obstructions. They may also bump into people as they may not be aware of their personal space, they may seem to ‘throw’ themselves across people or stand on people’s toes. Some autistic people may also face body awareness over sensitivity which may include difficulties with fine motor skills, e.g. manipulating small objects like buttons or shoelaces and also moving their whole body to look at something.

Family- Sensory differences can affect the whole family as it dictates the places the family visits or the kind of activities they are involved in.

How to support sensory sensitivity experiences?

What you do to support the autistic person with sensory difficulties depends on the type of sensitivity. Some tips will include:

  • Have a ‘quiet space’ your child can go to when they feel overwhelmed.
  • Give your child extra time to take in what you’re saying.
  • Allow your child to play more outside.
  • Teach your child which objects are hot and cold: you could try labelling objects in your house as ‘hot’ or ‘cold’, using either words or symbols, like fire and ice.
  • Keep dangerous objects out of reach: keep hot soup away from children
  • Explain sensitivity to other people so that they too can help in giving your child or family member the right support.
  • Shut doors and windows to reduce external sounds while at home
  • Preparing the person by informing him before going to noisy or crowded places
  • Create a routine around regular washing and using strong-smelling products like African black soap to distract people from inappropriate strong-smelling stimuli (like faeces). Unscented soap and perfume avoidance and making the environment as fragrance-free as possible can help with smell oversensitivity.

What is the EHC Plan?

The Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) explains the education, health and care support that is needed for a child or young person aged 0-25 years who has Special Education Needs or a Disability (SEND). The EHC plan and the needs assessment process through which it is produced were introduced as part of the Children and Families Act (2014).  EHC plans are procedures and policies put in place to cater for the health and wellbeing of the young person with SEN or disability. The law requires that local authorities deliver plans within 20 weeks of receiving a request for an EHC needs assessment. Section 19 of the Children and Families Act (2014) emphasizes the need to include the views, wishes and feelings of the child, and their parents in their EHC plan.

What is SEN support?

A special education needs support is the support provided to children and young people who need more support than their nursery, school or college provides.

For more on SEND support follow this link: Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND): Overview – GOV.UK (

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