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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 6 - November/December 2011

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By Dr. Columba Quigley

Autism is about seeing the world in a different way.

Although we are unsure what actually causes autism, it probably starts before children are born.

Autism affects the brain so that it develops differently to the normal brain.
When you have autism, the messages that the brain normally sends to make sense of the world are different.

Because of this, children with autism see the world in their own unique way. That is really what autism is about, about seeing the world in a way that is different to most other children.

What happens if you have autism?

Autism usually affects children in three ways:

  1. Understanding others
  2. Talking to others
  3. Making friends

When you have autism, you not only see the world differently, but you understand it differently too.

Autism can make it especially hard to understand how to deal with people around you.

Because of this you may find it easier to be on your own and to stay in your own world.

Autism can also affect how you talk. You might not talk at all, or repeat words you hear other people say.

How do you know if someone has autism?

You cannot tell that someone has autism just by looking at them. Children with autism look like other children. Because of this, it can sometimes take a while for it to be diagnosed.

Sometimes adults think a child is just being naughty when in fact they have autism.

The clues to diagnosing autism come from observing how you behave.
At school, the teachers might notice that you find it hard to make friends and that you are often on your own. Or they might notice that you find it hard to concentrate, or that they are being picked on because you seem different to them.

Sometimes children with autism might make unusual movements. You might find it hard to make eye contact, or you might stare a lot.

If you have autism, routine can very comforting and you like to do the same thing, every day, often at the same time. Any interruptions or change to your routine upsets you. Often, you are fascinated by one particular thing and study it for long periods.

What causes autism?

Autism is common and affects around one in 100 children.

We do not know yet what causes it, although it may be genetic, or it may be something in the environment.

One thing we know for sure is that nobody is to blame.

Can autism be treated?

A specialist can confirm whether or not you have the diagnosis.

There is no cure as yet, but when people around you spend time trying to understand what the world looks like to you, this can really help.

Autism is called a spectrum disorder because it affects everyone differently. It can affect some children just a little and other children more, so that they may need to go to a special school.

If you have autism you can be happy or sad just like other children. You just have difficulty understanding other people's body language and facial expressions. This can make it hard to know how other people are feeling.

There are teams of specialists, nurses, doctors, teachers, social skills trainers and speech and language therapists, all of whom can help you cope with your autism better.

Because you understand the world differently to other children, it can seem a scary place. The team of specialists are there to help you understand the world and people around you, and to make it feel safer.


  • Children with autism have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else
  • Because they see things differently they often have very special talents


  • Encourage children with autism with what they are good at
  • Help them with what they are not so good at

About Dr. Columba Quigley

Dr. Columba Quigley is a member of the medical writing team at Medikidz, a charity that provides children and teenagers with informative, accessible and fun comic books to help them understand their bodies and illness.

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