"Autism is not new, nor is it something to be feared. Autistic adults and children deserve acceptance, understanding and support. At their core, autistic rights are human rights. There's room for all different kinds of minds. Love always, not fear." - Courtney Alison


Autism is a neuro-biological condition which manifests on a behavioural level. It is the endpoint of several organic aetiologies, or medical causes. Autism impacts upon the developing brain and the symptoms manifest in various developmental areas. They create various adverse effects and disabilities with regards to an individual's behavioural, psychological, social, communicative and, occasionally, physical development. Therefore, a trans-disciplinary approach is needed to deal with the full range of an individual's needs, and early diagnosis and intervention is stressed.


Symptoms of ASD typically present at a very young age – between 2 to 3 years of age. However, symptoms can be evident earlier. Diagnosis is performed by history taking, focusing on developmental milestones, systematically inquiring for core behaviours, and by observation in several settings. Playbased assessments aimed at eliciting core areas of deficit are usually utilised in order to diagnose Autism.


There is no objective medical means of testing for Autism and no medical blood test or scan which can be used to diagnose Autism. Autism is characterized by qualitative impairments in social communication, social interaction, and social imagination, with a restricted range of interests and often stereotyped repetitive behaviours and mannerisms. Sensory hypo-sensitivities or hypersensitivities to the environment are common features.

Features that may discriminate children with autism early in childhood:
  • Lack of a social smile, lack of appropriate facial expression, poor attention, impaired social interaction
  • Ignoring people, a preference for solitude, lack of eye contact, lack of appropriate gestures, lack of emotional expression, less looking at others, less pointing, less showing objects in the second year


In the first year of life there are usually no clear discriminating features, but parental concerns should be elicited.


Between 2 and 3 years of age, concerns in the following areas should prompt referral:
  • Communication milestones (including verbal and non-verbal communication) Including: deficits understanding language; unusual use of language; poor response to name; deficits in terms of non-verbal communication – for example, lack of pointing, difficulty following a point and lack of reciprocal social smile during interactions.

Autism is a whole different way of living in the world. Nothing is "normal."


  • No babbling, pointing, or other gestures by 12 months
  • No single words by 18 months
  • No two-word spontaneous (non-echoed) phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of any language or social skills at any age


Social Impairments Including:

limited, or lack of imitative actions (for example, clapping); lack of demonstration with toys or other objects; lack of interest in other children or odd approaches to other children. Minimal recognition or responsiveness to other people's happiness or distress; limited variety of imaginative play or pretence, especially social imagination that is, not joining with others in shared imaginary games), 'in his or her own world'; failure to initiate simple play with others or participate in early social games; preferences for solitary play activities; odd relationships with adults (too friendly or ignores)


Impairment of interests, activities and other behaviours

Hypersensitivity to sound or touch; irregular motor mannerisms; biting, hitting, or aggression to peers; oppositional to adults; preference for sameness or inability to cope with change (especially in unstructured settings); repetitive play with toys (for example, lining up objects); turning light switches on and off. (Adapted from Baird, G., Cass, H. & Slonims, V. (2003). Clinical Review: Diagnosis of autism. BMJ. 327, 488-493.)


Do vaccinations cause Autism?

There is no clear scientific evidence that positively links the cause and development of Autism with the MMR Vaccine. Most recently, public anxiety about Autism has been raised as a result of reports linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism and inflammatory bowel disorder and a rise in the prevalence of autism. This has resulted in a serious fall in immunization rates, despite the epidemiological evidence of a lack of association, and a strong reassurance from the Department of Health and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health about the safety of the MMR vaccine.

"Autism is a journey that opens your heart to a new world, a place I could never have imagined, even in my wildest dreams. Our autism world is wild, colorful, loud, entertaining, sometimes scary, intriguing, complicated, thoughtful, interesting and full of little miracles." - Allie Smith