Life as an autistic person

In the past some people thought that autism could be cured. There is not a cure for autism. Even if it was possible, most autistic people wouldn’t want to be cured as they feel autism is part of their identity.

Like everyone else, autistic people can be happy and healthy in the right environment. But, if you’re autistic, you might find the right environment for you is different to the right environment for a non-autistic person.

There are things you can do to help create the right environment for yourself.

Support for people living with autism

Depending on what’s offered by your NHS board and local organisations, there are different types of support to help overcome the challenges that you may experience.

Possible support includes:

  • help with communicating, both for yourself and the people in your life, so you can understand each other better
  • groups for autistic people and their loved ones to share experiences and advice
  • sensory assessments and support with an occupational therapist to help find ways of managing and improving your environment and how you experience the world

Psychological therapies

Psychological therapies can help to manage conditions like anxiety, which can be linked to autism. They’re not a treatment for autism itself.

The difficulties you can experience in daily life, mean that you may want support for other conditions, including:

Psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often used to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. These therapies are used for many people, but may need to be adapted to work with your autism.

Finding the right support options for you

Interventions that aim to ‘train out’ behaviours (like repetitive movements) or force autistic people to behave like non-autistic people are unethical and often harmful. But, you may want support to develop skills that could help you in everyday life.

For example, you could seek help to understand how non-autistic people think and communicate. This could make it easier to be understood or improve your relationships at work.

The decision to have therapies for things like social skills should be yours.

Learn about avoiding harmful and unhelpful therapies for autism

How to create the right environment if you’re autistic

Having the right environment can help autistic people’s quality of life. There are ways you can change and improve your environment to make it as comfortable and supportive as possible.

Autism is covered by the Equality Act (2010). This means that schools and employers must make “reasonable adjustments” to support you in your environment so that you can learn or work.

Learn more about the Equality Act (2010)

There are some common changes to an environment that you may find helpful.

Sensory changes

These could include being:

  • given a quiet space to work
  • given permission to wear headphones
  • able to use sensory toys
  • allowed to make noises while working

Communication changes:

These could include:

  • using email or apps to communicate
  • using very clear language
  • allowing additional time to ask questions
  • including visual communication like diagrams or pictures alongside written words

Use of routine

This could include:

  • keeping to a regular routine
  • giving warning of any changes as far in advance as possible

Learn more about autism from autistic people

What to do if you’re autistic and feel overwhelmed

Sometimes, when a situation is too much to cope with, you may become overwhelmed. This can be because of distress caused by:

  • certain sensory inputs (things you see, hear, feel, smell or taste)
  • being asked to do certain things

For anyone feeling distressed, it’s important to communicate your needs and find ways to get those needs met. Because autistic people and neurotypical people (those who do not have a neurodevelopmental condition like autism or ADHD) communicate in different ways, this can be challenging. If you can find ways for you and those around you to effectively communicate before distress happens, it can help reduce how often situations that cause distress occur.

Anyone who is feeling a lot of distress may have behaviours that others find challenging. These behaviours include:

  • being destructive – breaking things, for example
  • being disruptive – making noise in class or throwing things, for example
  • self-harm
  • aggression

Help is available for anyone experiencing distress. Finding support can help you identify reasons for your distress. It can also help you find ways of managing this distress and meeting your needs. Contact your GP or the healthcare professional who usually supports you for advice.

Learn more about living with autism

There are a number of websites that can provide more information and advice for autistic people and their families:

You can find information about local services and support using Scotland’s Service Directory.

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Source: NHS Fife - Opens in new browser window

Last updated:
03 May 2024