About Autism

These are a few of our favourite online videos explaining what autism is.

Video on Autism by Alexander Amelines


We are all different and that’s wonderful.  Some differences are easy to see.  Height.  Hairstyle.  Gender.  Eye colour.  And so on.  Other differences can’t be seen.  Our favourite foods, fear or special skill.  Interestingly, the way we see the World is also different.  For instance, what do you see in this drawing?  Most people see a duck, but some of you might have seen a rabbit.  Whichever you saw, you are correct.  This is just a trick drawing to show you that all brains work differently.  The brain is your body’s computer.  It works differently for all of us and controls how you learn.  That’s why we are all good at different things.  How you feel.  Which is why we all feel different emotions; and how you communicate.  Sometimes the brain is connected in such a way that effects the senses and how we perceive and read situations and interactions.  This is known as autism.

Many people have autism so it’s likely you already know someone who is autistic and for this reason it’s useful to know a little bit about autism.  The special wiring inside an autistic brain can sometimes make the person good at tasks we may find difficult, such as mathematics, drawing or music.  It can also do the opposite and activities we find too easy are incredibly difficult to them, such as making friends.

The senses constantly send information to your brain about your surroundings and other people.  However, when a person’s brain and its senses don’t communicate well, the brain can become overwhelmed and confused, affecting how they see the World.

Picture yourself walking down the street.  This is how an autistic brain may experience the same walk.  Scary, isn’t it?  Sadly, in many cases, the person can’t say out loud how they feel, so even though there’s chaos going on in their heads, they seem okay on the outside, unable to ask for help.

We all develop behaviours to help us feel calm in uncomfortable situations.  We may look away, hug ourselves, chew our nails, fidget, bite our lips and so on.  Equally, autistic people develop behaviours that help them cope with these intense moments.  These actions may seem unusual, but they are just their way to feel calm.  When they happen, it means they are having a hard time.  The kind thing to do is not to give them an even harder time by getting cross, ignoring them or mocking them.

People with autism need friends who are willing to take time to know them.  With good communication and plenty of patience, everyone would be better off.  People with autism are not ill or broken.  They simply have a unique view of the World, and with a little support from their friends they might just be able to share that view with us.  Autism can make amazing things happen.


Video on Autism from the National Autistic Society


Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people like me, communicate and interact with the World.  There are about 700,000 adults and children on the autism spectrum in the UK.  And like everyone, each autistic person has their own strengths and challenges.  But all of us have difficulties with communicating and interacting with other people.  This could mean not speaking at all, needing longer to process information or not understanding facial expressions.  We also engage in repetitive behaviour – doing or thinking the same thing over and over.  This is sometimes for fun and sometimes to help deal with our anxiety.

People on the autism spectrum can also find unexpected changes, however small, very distressing.  And then there is sensory overload: when noise, smells, touch and bright lights become very painful and overwhelming.  All these challenges can make the World feel very scary and hard to understand, and sometimes send us into physical and emotional ‘meltdowns’ or ‘shutdowns’.

It is very important that autistic people get help from and early age, but life can become very difficult if children or adults don’t get the right support or understanding.  Autistic children are 3 times more likely to be excluded from school.  Only 1 in 6 autistic people in the UK have a full-time job.  And over a third of autistic adults have reported serious mental health problems.

The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for autistic people.  Since 1962, we have been changing society’s attitudes and transforming individuals’ lives.  We want to create a society that works for autistic adults and children.  And, with your help, we can.

You may be interested in the following publications:

Autism, A Short Introduction Uta Frith, Oxford University Press

Odd Girl Out: An Autistic Woman in a Neurotypical World Laura James, Bluebird


We have a lending library with a small selection of books which you are welcome to borrow. Please contact us for details.