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What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodivergent spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties but being autistic will affect them in different ways.  The official term is still 'autism spectrum disorder' (ASD). However, there is a drive to move away from ‘disorder’ and use ‘conditions’ instead, ASC.

Additional terms to help to describe the particular autism profile presented by an individual, such as Asperger profile or PDA profile can be used. (Click here for further information)

Autism is not as simple as high or low functioning, or ‘mild’ and ‘severe’

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People with autism can have challenges or differences in the following areas:

  • Interaction

  • Communication.

  • Imagination and rigidity of thought.

  • Sensory processing (Click here for further information)

Anxiety is also often a key feature of autism. Click here for more information on anxiety.


  • Masking is where people with ASC hide their difficulties in public, particularly in school. This can lead to a lack of understanding from school staff or relatives etc.

  • Masking is exhausting and can explain why children can come home from school like “a shaken up can of fizzy drink”.

  • Masking can lead to sensory and emotional overload, poor self-esteem and meltdowns.

  • Masking can be subconscious and so it is not a straightforward process for a child to stop masking.


  • Meltdowns in autism are different to wilful or chosen behaviour (or a tantrum)

  • Some people have “internal meltdowns and become very withdrawn

  • A meltdown is like a panic attack and should not be seen as punishable

  • Rational thought or conversation is often not possible during a meltdown

A useful animated explanation of autism

Useful Websites - Support for Parents

Send Advice Surrey

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities information, advice and support


Family Voice

Speaking up for the families of children & young people with additional needs in Surrey.  Giving parents a strong collective voice, a forum to share knowledge and empowerment to improve opportunities for our children


Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (known as IPSEA) offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 


Surrey Local Offer

This website provides local information on pre and post diagnosis for children and young people with additional needs, their families and the practitioners who help them.

The Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service


A Surrey based organisation are a not for profit organisation run to benefit autistic girls and women, and those around them.   We are proudly lived-experience led, and we source neurodivergent input and talent at every opportunity.


SEN Jungle

Parent-led information, resources and informed opinion about children and young people 0-25

Autism Information Websites

The National Autistic Society (NAS) offers a wealth of information in all areas of autism including recommended publications and up to date research. 

They have regional services for Surrey, click here

The Autism Education Trust (AET)

The AET is a partnership of autistic young people, parents/carers, academics and professionals. This, coupled with our approach to research and evidence-based resources, means that we have expert knowledge to share.

Ambitious about Autism

We stand with autistic children and young people, champion their rights and create opportunities

Autism Services Directory

Details services and support for people on the Autistic spectrum, their families and people who work with them.


We are the UK’s leading autism research and campaigning charity. Our mission is to create breakthroughs that enable all autistic people to live happier, healthier, longer lives. 

Recommended Reading

There are a huge amount of publications on autism aimed at children, parents and siblings. The ones most widely used by Learning Space with children and young adults are:

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All Cats Are on the Autism Spectrum

by Kathy Hoopman



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The ASD Workbook: Understanding Your Autism Spectrum Disorder

by Penny Kershaw



ASD The reason I jump.jpg

The Reason I Jump: one boy's voice from the silence of autism                                      

by Naoki Higashida



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The Awesome Autistic Go-To Guide: A Practical Handbook for Autistic Teens and Tweens

by Yenn Purkis & Tanya Masterman 



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A Different Kind of Normal: My Real-Life COMPLETELY True Story About Being Unique                                    

by Abigail Balfe



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