About Autism

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition, sometimes referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder(ASD). Many autistic people will share some difficulties but it will affect them in different ways.  

Asperger syndrome is a diagnosis previously given to certain autistic people. Autism Spectrum Disorder is now the most commonly given diagnosis.

Some people with ASD may also have other conditions This may include a learning disability or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Further information:
• You can find detailed information about autism on the The National Autistic Society  website.
• Autism Hampshire has an Autism e-learning course aimed at everyone coming into regular contact with people on the spectrum and their families and it takes approximately 1 hour to complete.

Difficulties faced by autistic people

ASD will affect people in different ways. But people with autism share four main areas of difficulty:

  • Social communication – they have difficulty understanding facial expressions or tone of voice. They can take common phrases or sayings like “It's raining cats and dogs” literally.
  • Social interaction – they have difficulty making friends. They do not understand the rules of social contact.
  • Social imagination – they have difficulty understanding and interpreting thoughts, feelings and actions of others. They can also find it hard to predict what will happen next. This makes it challenging for them to prepare for change and plan for the future.
  • Sensory processing & integration - they are likely to have difficulty in sensory processing. This is the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate responses. This affects emotions and the ability to perform certain tasks and manage behavioural and emotional responses. They may also present sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviour.

Getting a diagnosis

A diagnosis is the formal identification of autism. This will be by a health professional such as a paediatrician or psychiatrist. Having a diagnosis is helpful for two reasons:

  • It helps people with autism, and their families, to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them.
  • It enables people to access services and support.

You can find out more about diagnosis on the NHS website

Your GP, Community Mental Health Team or Adult Social Care department can refer you to the free Hampshire Autism Service for diagnosis and support:

Social activities and shopping

For local groups and activities, look in our Community directory. You can search under 'Specific needs' and then 'Autism/Asperger syndrome' for activities specifically for people with autism.

Autism friendly film screenings
Dimensions UK offer autism friendly screenings at over 250 cinemas in partnership with Cineworld, Odeon, Showcase and Vue cinemas. Every month, each participating cinema shows a different film from a selection of new releases and classics including Pixar animations, Disney adventures and many more films suitable for all age ranges.

Mayflower Theatre
The theatre offers a number of 'relaxed performances'.  They have also made a video, developed with Autism Hampshire, about a trip to the theatre.

Morrisons has introduced a 'Quieter Hour' in all their stores every Saturday for those who struggle with music and other noise. The National Autistic Society are encouraging other retailers and businesses to introduce a quiet hour.

The National Autistic Society offers specific advice on how to make leisure activities more accessible for autistic people.

Sunflower lanyard - assistance for people with hidden disabilities

A sunflower lanyard was introduced at major UK airports in 2018 in order to allow passengers with hidden disabilities to indicate discreetly to staff that they may need additional support or help. The use of the lanyard has now spread and is now available from a number of transport providers. You can pick up a free lanyard at Tesco.

Staying safe from crime or abuse

  • See the information in our Protecting adults at risk section.
  • Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board (HSAB) has a website. This has useful information for people who may experience or be at risk of experiencing abuse, their families and carers.  This includes resources and guidance about staying safe and mate crime.
  • hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. Mate crime is the exploitation, abuse or theft from any vulnerable person by those they consider to be their friends. Those that commit such abuse or theft are often referred to as 'fake friends'. Mate crime is most prevalent when the victim has a mental disability and is especially common when that disability is Autism or Asperger’s.
  • Hampshire police   offer guidance on how to prevent and deal with hate crime or mate crime. You can also   report hate crime or hate incidents to a community organisation  in your area, if you do not feel comfortable contacting the police.
  • Safe Place is a scheme to help people with learning disabilities. You can go to a Safe Place if you get lost, scared or upset when you are out on your own. There are safe places around Hampshire and  Southampton.

Information and support

Our Community directory lists local and national support and activities. 

Autism Hampshire
Autism Hampshire  provides a range of services for people with autism and their families. 

  • The Local Autism Directory.   has local services including support groups, advocacy groups and social and leisure activities.
  • The Autism Alert Programme supports people with autism should they find themselves in any kind of contact with the police or emergency services. It includes a wallet card, car badge and the new Spectra5 Autism Assistance app which includes an electronic version of the card as well as helping you in your daily life.

Hampshire Autism Voice 
Hampshire Autism Voice (HAV) is the parent, carers and autistic persons' group established within the Hampshire Autism Partnership Board (HAPB).  The HAPB links closely to the work of the  Hampshire Learning Disability Partnership Board.

To find out about children's support services please visit the Hampshire Local Offer  website.

National support

The National Autistic Society
Autism Alliance
Autistic UK