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Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.  It affects 4 key areas: social communication, social interaction, social imagination and sensory processing. 

Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like all people, autistic people have their own strengths and weaknesses  


Autistic people may:

  • find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
  • find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
  • find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
  • get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
  • take longer to understand information
  • do or think the same things over and over

Autism and Girls

Autistic characteristics in girls may differ from those of other autistic people. They might seem to have fewer social difficulties than autistic boys, but this could be because they are more likely to 'mask' their autistic traits (though the stress of doing so can result in anxiety and overwhelm). At school, autistic girls may be more likely to be part of a friendship group and this could be a reason that teachers don't notice their differences. They may also be missed if their academic achievement masks difficulties they are facing in other areas. 


The Autistic Girls Network have produced a paper looking at the different presentation of autism that females who have yet to be diagnosed may exhibit and the support they may need. The paper is entitled “Autism, Girls & Keeping it All Inside” and highlights the internal presentation of autism that is more likely with girls and gives a handy ‘What to look out for’ that will be useful for all educators to read. 

Support in schools

It is not necessary for a child to have a diagnosis of Autism in order to receive support in school.  

Once a child has been identified as having SEN, the school should put effective support in place. Parents must be told what this support is.  Four main actions - Assess, Plan, Do, Review - form part of a cycle known as the Graduated Approach. 


Every school must publish an SEN information report about the SEN provision the school makes. This can be found on the school’s website. The child’s teacher or the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) can also provide information on the SEN provision made by the school.


Reasonable Adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010, schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that pupils with SEND are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-SEND pupils, and can participate in all aspects of school life.  Examples of reasonable adjustments are:

  • Adjustments to school uniform for sensory needs
  • Soft start/end to the day
  • Ear defenders
  • Access to a quiet area
  • Time out cards
  • Different arrangements at lunchtimes
  • Sensory breaks

Autism Diagnosis Pathway

In Hertfordshire, ASD assessments are carried out by the Community Paediatrics team. They have clear, step by step advice on how you can get a diagnosis for autism.  Referrals for assessment are made to the Community Paediatric team via the GP.  When a child or young person is in a school setting, the referral should be initiated by school/educational setting with the ASD school questionnaire being completed.  Support should be given to the family to complete the parent Information. The family will then go to the GP to complete the referral process.

Demand Avoidance

A persistent and marked resistance to demands is a characteristic experienced by and observed in some autistic people. It can impact essential needs like eating and sleeping, and expectations such as going to school or work, and has implications for diagnosis and support.

                                         (National Autistic Society)