Back to blogs

Autism Awareness: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

Every year, Autism Awareness Week, Autism Acceptance Week and Autism Awareness Day is recognised all over the world helping to promote the importance of building a society that works better for autistic people.

The theme for Autism Awareness Week 2023 is colour, and you can get involved in the Spectrum Colour Challenge by registering your Spectrum Colour Challenge here. Special events will be hosted in schools, workplaces and local communities to work towards changing attitudes towards people with autism, and at Nurseplus, we’d like to do our bit to help.
There are many ways to get involved in World Autism Awareness Day, as well as Autism Acceptance Week, one of which is helping to raise awareness and help everyone get better at understanding autism.
As a home care provider with autistic clients, we want to spread awareness and help everyone to understand:
  • the signs and symptoms of autism
  • the diagnosis and treatment of autism
  • the different types of autism
  • the top tips to provide care for people with autism

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

There are many subtle signs and symptoms to watch out for when it comes to knowing if someone on the spectrum. These behavioural patterns can sometimes mean that autistic people are misconstrued as rude, disrespectful or at times aggressive.

That’s why we thought it’d be best to highlight some of the most common signs and symptom an autistic person might display, so we can help challenge the perceptions of people with autism.

Social challenges

Getting an autism diagnosis in earlier years can be done by monitoring and comparing the expected developmental behaviour of children.

For example, most infants are typically very inquisitive by nature and can recognise sounds, grasp objects and display emotions, and understand simple facial expressions by the age of two to three months.

In comparison, a child with autism might have difficulty engaging with others, such as not responding to their name being called, distancing themselves from others and can display delays in speech development and general motor skills.

Children and adults with autism can have difficulty reading facial expressions and social cues. This makes it difficult for them to know what other people might be thinking or feeling. Sadly, sometimes this difficulty can lead to adults with autism being misunderstood or and autistic child being labelled as immature or disruptive.

Key care tip: take the time to understand challenging behaviour and be patient.

Difficulties in communicating

When an autistic child does begin to speak, they may struggle to be clear, showing trouble when combining words into meaningful sentences or repeating the same phrases over and over. An autistic child will often focus on a particular subject and give others very little chance to comment.

Adults with autism can struggle to recognise tone inflection making it difficult for them to know when someone is being sarcastic, serious or joking. Also, an autistic person will not only find it hard to recognise facial expressions, but may also struggle to use facial expressions that match what they’re saying.

Key care tip: make a point of keeping your communications clear and simple and listen intently to any communication offered.

Repetitive behaviour

Repetitive movements, such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth, flicking fingers, or re-arranging objects can be another common symptom of autism. An autistic child may spend hours lining up toys in height order instead of using them for pretend play, whilst adults with autism may feel the need to place objects in a fixed place.

It is often very important to an autistic person to follow a consistent daily routine without which they could becoming agitated or stressed by certain situations. An autistic person can also become very attached to an object or particular subject.

For example, autistic children may become extremely knowledgeable about dinosaurs or space whilst adults with autism will take their hobbies very seriously.

Key care tip: be attentive to the importance of routines, object or subjects that interest an autistic person and engage in interests the way they do.

Sensory problems

An autistic person can be under or over sensitive to sounds, sights, smells, tastes, movements and touches which can lead to public spaces feeling very overwhelming. Sensory differences can include difficulties regulating hearing, depth perception, light sensitivity all of which can take a toll on day-to-day activities.

Key care tip: avoid taking a person with autism into a new environment unless you know their sensory difficulties will not be affected.

The different types of Autism

What makes understanding autism difficult for some is recognising the many different types of autism, knowing where on the autism spectrum someone might be.

To help you understand a bit more about autism, we’ve listed some of the different types of autism people can have and the behaviour associated with each one.

Autistic Disorder

People with autistic disorder can display significant language delays, they may also struggle with social interaction and can present communication challenges. Someone with an Autistic Disorder may have an intellectual disability.

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is usually when a person has social challenges and can be displayed as unusual behaviour or specific and intense interests. Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome will not typically have problems with language or intellectual disability and may just seem socially distant.

Pervasive developmental disorder

Only recently added to the autism spectrum, PDD usually displays in the early years and infancy but symptoms are subtle including previously mentioned delays in cognitive and social development. If PDD is spotted and diagnosed early enough, work can be done to be sure behaviour issues will not effect day-to-day life.


It is common for people on the autism spectrum to have either with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

  • ADHD presents significant difficulties with things like poor attention, over activity and impulsiveness, all behaviours which are often seen as disruptive in class rooms, or social situations.

  • On the other hand, an autistic person with ODD can be defiant or argumentative with authoritative figures.

Both disorders can be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can help provide effective ways in which to deal with emotions.

Autism Diagnosis and treatment

Autism assessment or receiving a formal autism diagnosis can provide access to the right support that will help you and your loved ones. There are a wide range of support networks for families of people with autism, including the National Autistic Society and Child Autism UK.

An autism diagnosis often includes a thorough assessment with a speech and language therapist, psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Although there is no ‘cure’ for autism, there are a range of practices and methods that can be adopted to support an autistic person with learning and development.

Now that society is better at understanding autism, the range of different types of autism are now recognised as “autism spectrum disorders". Each autistic person on the spectrum is different, although common traits can and do present themselves in most cases.

We can use the autism spectrum to help us provide better quality autism care to those who need it. Knowing where a person with autism is on the spectrum can help us recognise and understand certain behavioural traits and react properly to any challenges that may occur.

Below you can see the different behaviours that are registered on the autism spectrum.

Caring for someone with Autism

At Nurseplus, our care staff can work with a wide variety of people and this of course can include people with different types of autism. To get a better understanding of what autism care can look like, we spoke with someone who shared their experiences of caring for their son who has Asperger’s.

“My son Asperger’s. Asperger’s syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism which means interaction with others is easier, but filtering the comments that come out of his mouth can be a challenge. He also has ADHD which can make “meltdowns” unpredictable but the two disorders often come hand in hand.

Regardless of whether or not your ASD child (adult or youngster), friend, or the person you care for has mild Asperger’s or severe Autism, there are certain things that we can do to help their beautiful minds stay as ‘meltdown’ free as possible.

Did you know that 1 in 100 people in the UK are living with ASD, many of which are undiagnosed? We look forward to a time when everyone has a better understanding of how to live with this ‘invisible condition’, in the hopes that it will make the world a better place for a person with autism to live in.”

Here are some of the challenges that caring for an autistic child has presented for me and some of the key care tips I use to help manage behaviour, understand autism and not simply label difficulties as meltdowns.


“One of the key things in our house is to prevent what is know as a “meltdown”. I know that a sudden change in routine can be catastrophic to someone with a autism spectrum disorder. In the event that I know there will be a change, I take the time to explain why the change is happening and why is happening."

Key care tip: If someone with autism can understand why there is a change in their routine and can prepare for it happening, it can lessen the likelihood of a meltdown happening.

Be patient

“If an autistic person doesn’t respond to a request or advisement of a routine change immediately, don’t harass them or get cross. It’s likely the person is simply processing the information because their mind works very differently to others. An autistic person will take the time they need to process the request or advice and make plans to adapt. They will then respond when they are ready.”

Key care tip: When caring for an autistic person, do not rush or pressure responses or actions. Expect time delays and adjust your care accordingly.

Taking things literally

“I will never forget the day I asked my son to ring my mum and wish her Happy Mother’s Day. He was about six at the time and his response was literally priceless – ‘Why am I ringing her? She’s your mother, you ring her’! And quite right too! People with autism will usually have no filter, this can sometimes lead to their responses or conversation being blunt and honest"

Key care tip: Don’t ask questions you don’t want honest answers too.

Be clear

“Be direct in your questions. For example instead of asking “which cereal would you prefer today?” as “would you like Coco Pops this morning?” Using visuals can be helpful too such as using a clock to show a bedtime countdown, or having a timeline of pictures for what the days activities will look like.”

Key care tip: Being direct and using images can help a person with autism process information easier and allow time to adapt should any changes occur.

Coping via repetition

“Autistic people will often cope with challenges and changes by repeating something they know. It can be infuriating to hear for the 25th time the number of Royal Navy submarines there have been since 1941 and each of their names, but these repetitious behaviours are how someone with autism copes with their disorder. "

Key care tips: Show an interest in comfort subject of those you are caring for. Even though you may have heard it all before you interest and just listening will really help.

Avoid difficult environments

“A person with autism will quite often not be aware that a situation or environment makes them uncomfortable until they are in it. An autistic person can be sensitive to loud noises, light, tastes and smells. This can present itself, for example, on a crowded train, when my son told me that the man in front of him smells dreadful and should really have a bath! Other challenging environments have been firework displays, theme parks and bowling alleys, but all individuals differ and it’s often a case of trial and error.”

Key care tip: Get to know the person you are caring for, their sensory triggers as best you can then always have a back-up plan should a new environment not work out.

Social difficulties

“We’ve already touched on some of the struggles autistic people can have in public social situations. But other subtle difficulties can range from not being able to make eye contact or making inappropriate and seemingly offensive comments to others. It’s important to remember that an autistic persons intentions are not often rude or ignorant, they are simply taking the day in their stride and respecting that is imperative.”

Key care tip: Try and practice communicating with facial expressions and gestures or encourage conversations and interactions with different people in different settings within their comfort range.

Managing challenging behaviour

"A situation that often occurs in our house is that things can get physical or I can see my son becoming upset and rocking back and forth. When this sort of thing happens, it’s a sign that an autistic person is clearly struggling with something. It’s at this point when we need to allow them to vent their frustration whilst keeping them, others and yourself safe."

Key care tip: The individual’s safety is a priority – but yours is important too.

Ask for help

“If you need help, ask for it! It most certainly does not make you a bad parent/friend/carer, on the contrary. There are many organisations available to help you better understand and care for someone with autism. Most organisation will provide helpful autism care courses, often free of charge.”

Key care tip: Everyday is a learning day and when caring for someone with autism this statement has never been truer. The more you know about the autism spectrum disorder the better.

At Nurseplus Care at home, we support both adults and children with autism in a variety of different ways. Some clients only need some companionship throughout the day, whereas others require support with more aspects of their daily routines. We work closely with each client and their family to build a bespoke care package to suit each individual need. Each of our carers are selected based on compatibility with our clients’ likes, dislikes, hobbies and interests. It’s important to us that our carers connect with our clients and those close to them, ensuring that they can continue doing all the things they love. 

Posted-on March 31, 2023 By Nurseplus Care at home