What is Autism?


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people, and the world, around them. Autism affects approximately 1% of the world’s population, which equates to roughly 60,000 people in Scotland alone.

People with autism experience difficulties with language, communication and social interaction.  Many people with autism also have sensory sensitivities; most commonly to sights and sounds but also to taste, smell and touch. Imagination and information processing is also affected but it is important to remember that this does not mean people with autism cannot be imaginative, empathetic, loving and smart.

Autism is a spectrum disorder which means that although these difficulties are common across all people with autism, their severity will differ widely from person to person. There is no ‘cure’ for autism and for many people the idea is offensive; their autism, or that of their children, is an integral part of what makes them who they are.

For many years it has been believed that autism is more prevalent in males, with many figures coming up with men to women ratios of  2:1 to 16:1. At present this is a huge area of research among the medical and academic communities, with one possible explanation being that women and girls are often under- or misdiagnosed.

Around half of people with autism may have a learning disability and many will also have other medical conditions like ADHD, dyspraxia and epilepsy.

If you are looking for autism-related advice, we are here to help. We can tell you about the services we deliver for children and young people, and how we support parents, carers and professionals across the Lothians. If we cannot help we will signpost you to other organisations who may be able to assist you.

You can download our “10 Things” PDF here, a feature of a campaign we ran where we promoted “10 things we would like people to remember about autism”.