Autistic spectrum conditions

Autism spectrum conditions are conditions that affect social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

It's estimated that more 1 in every 100 people in the UK has an ASC. More males  are diagnosed with the condition than females

As an ASC is a neurodevelopmental condition, there is no “cure”  but a number of individual, family-based, educational and other interventions are available to help children, adults and families.

Signs and symptoms

People with ASC tend to have problems with social interaction and communication.

In early infancy, some children with ASC don’t babble or use other vocal sounds. Older children have problems using non-verbal behaviours to interact with others – for example, they have difficulty with eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures. They may give no or brief eye contact and ignore familiar or unfamiliar people.

Children with ASC may also lack awareness of and interest in other children. They’ll often either gravitate to older or younger children, rather than interacting with children of the same age. They tend to play alone.

They can find it hard to understand other people's emotions and feelings, and have difficulty starting conversations or taking part in them properly. Language development may be delayed, and a child with ASC won’t compensate their lack of language or delayed language skills by using gestures (body language) or facial expressions.

Children with ASC will tend to repeat words or phrases spoken by others (either immediately or later) without formulating their own language, or in parallel to developing their language skills. Some children don’t demonstrate imaginative or pretend play, while others will continually repeat the same pretend play.

Some children with ASC like to stick to the same routine and little changes may trigger tantrums. Some children may flap their hand or twist or flick their fingers when they’re excited or upset. Others may engage in repetitive activity, such as turning light switches on and off, opening and closing doors, or lining things up.

Children and young people with ASC frequently experience a range of cognitive (thinking), learning, emotional and behavioural problems. For example, they may also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression.

There is an overlap between having a learning disability and having an ASC. some people with an ASC will be of average to high cognitive ability but a significant proportion will have a significant learning disability.

Getting a diagnosis

Most people are diagnosed in childhood but we often see adults who have struggled throughout their early years but were never diagnosed.  

If you are concerned that your child might have an ASC, talk to your GP, health visitor or teacher. If you are an adult then talk to your GP about referral to a specialist assessment service.

How the Tavistock and Portman can help

We provide diagnostic and other assessments as well as psychological interventions for children, young people, adults and their families and social networks. We work as a multi-disciplinary team and offer, individual, family and group-based interventions, depending on what we think might help and what the patient and their family thinks might be useful to address their goals. Most of our services are provided at the Tavistock Clinic.